THEME: SELFLESS SERVICE
READINGS: Isaiah 53:10-11 / Hebrews 4:14-16 / Mark 10:35-45
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s first reading is a brief portion of a passage of the Book of Isaiah which describes the Suffering Servant of God (cf. Isa. 52:13-53:12). The Suffering Servant selflessly sacrificed his life for the good of others in the sure hope of God’s blessings. Hence, in today’s gospel reading, Jesus teaches us to prioritize selfless service over personal gains (cf. Mark 10:35-45).
SELFLESS SERVICE IS NOT FOR PERSONAL GAIN
According to the gospel reading, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, requested from our Lord Jesus, the two high places of honour – sitting at His right hand and left hand in His glory. Thus, the two brothers made personal gain their priority. However, they were disappointed. Therefore, in our service to others, in the church and in the society at large, we should be selfless rather than selfish.
SELFLESS SERVICE IS FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS
The focus of the Suffering Servant of the Book of Isaiah was God’s mercy and forgiveness for His people (cf. Is. 53:10-12). Similarly, in the gospel reading, Jesus exhorts us to serve the good of others: “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be the first among you must be a slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44). So, prioritizing the good of others is a good indicator that we are selfless in our service.
SELFLESS SERVICE ENTAILS PERSONAL SACRIFICE
Whereas practitioners of “customer service” in the field of commerce also prioritize the good of their others (customers), they may not be willing to make personal sacrifices if no material rewards are assured them. Selfless service, however, is characterized by personal sacrifices. For instance, the Suffering Servant, who is described as a lamb led to slaughter, gave up his life for his people (cf. Is. 53:7). Jesus, in turn, offers Himself as the ultimate model of sacrificial service: “the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
SELFLESS SERVICE REQUIRES HUMILITY
Besides, personal sacrifice which means giving up something good we possess, selfless service entails humility which is giving up something bad (i.e., pride) which we have acquired. It is to serve with humility that’s why Jesus enjoins us: “whoever would be the first among you must be a slave of all” (Mark 10:44). Later on, Jesus would demonstrate humble service by washing the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper (cf. John 13:1-17). Then, in His crucifixion, loving service, selflessness, sacrifice and humility would meet in the most sublime way possible (cf. Phil. 2:5-11).
SELFLESS SERVICE IS REWARDED BY GOD
Whereas selfless service seeks no personal gain from its beneficiaries, it is rewarded by God Himself. Thus, God assured the Suffering Servant of several blessings:
“when he makes himself an offering for sin [of others], he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied…. I will allot him a portion with the great” (Isa. 53:10-12).
Therefore, assured of God’s blessings, above all His gift of eternal life, let us not only wait for the opportunity to selflessly serve, but let us look for the opportunity to do so in our families, church communities, workplaces, schools, localities, and in the larger society. Amen!
By Fr. John K. Louis