The fundamental attitude to serve

- Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

It's amazing that even as Christ was already talking about his impending passion, death and resurrection, two of his apostles, James and John, were more interested in occupying special places in heaven-that they may sit "one at your right and the other at your left." (cfr. Mk 10,32-45)

This elicited a sharp rebuke from Christ and the clarification that "whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Before saying those words, he told them: "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you."

These words are a timely reminder for all of us, and especially our newly elected public officials, who wield a certain authority over others due to our position and status in life. They clearly spell out how our attitude should be with respect to power and authority that we can have.

Power and authority is meant for serving. To serve is the language and the expression of love. It authenticates any affirmation of love we do, converting it from intention to tangible reality.

This is the attitude meant for us, with God himself as the exemplar. Imagine, Christ served us by dying on the cross. Before that, he shocked his apostles when he insisted that he be allowed to wash their feet. That was to give an example to them, and us, so that what he did we would also do to one another.

The angels too, superior to us in nature, are made to serve us, following a divine law articulated by Christ himself when he said: "Let him who is greatest among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant." (Lk 22,26)

We need to be more keenly aware of this law. This is truly what is good for us, providing us with the basic source of strength and consistency we need as we grapple with life's endless challenges.

Before we worry about the big and destructive enemies of our soul, we have to realize that our most insidious foe is right within us, when this attitude of serving others is not firmly established in our mind and heart.

That it was James and John who made that questionable request only shows how easy it is for us who try to be close to God to fall for the tricks of our soul's enemies.

They most likely were motivated by the best intentions. Still, those intentions were wrong. Like them, we could be subjectively loving, but objectively not so. Thus, the need to constantly rectify our intentions.

It is this missing attitude of wanting to serve in each one of us that sooner or later grows into social and cultural proportions, then into something global with ideological supporting structures, that offers the seed, sun and water for the big enemies we have against our spiritual life.

The absence of this attitude nullifies whatever big and ardent professions of love we may have toward God and others. Our desire to love could not soar into the flight of authentic love when this eagerness to serve is absent.

Any attempt to love with this attitude not in place would be plain mimickry. It would attract many problems and anomalies. It will drown in the quicksands of pride, vanity, envy, jealousy, and the other subtle forms of egoism. It cannot survive the mere tests of differences of characters and opinions, for example.

This eagerness to serve really has to be worked out, because with our fallen and wounded nature, every pore of our being tends to go against the law of love expressed in service that God meant for us.

We need to pause and reflect to get a clear view of our predicament, then beg and pray for God's grace for we can do nothing without it, and then little by little, day by day, start to develop the mind and the skills to bring us always ready and happy to serve.

Let us remember that the fall of the angels started when one of them said, "I will not serve." Our first parents fell because they too chose to serve themselves instead of God.

Every sin and moral evil has in its core the virus of not wanting to serve. And so, perhaps as a motto that we can repeat often, we should say to ourselves, and to God and all: "Serviam" I will serve!


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