Saturday, January 25, 2014

It Is Too Little To Be A Servant

Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 2014

"It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant,
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."

Too little.

The summer before I entered the seminary I had two paths before me: seminary and a life of public ministry, or a pottery wheel and a quiet life making bowls and plates.

I have always been more comfortable as the artist, the gardener, the designer, the architect, the stage manager, the one who can quietly go about his or her work for the glory of God and leave the politics and the power struggles to others.  Who can get to the end of the day and see the work that has been accomplished and then go home.

And yet I kept on feeling this tug toward the priesthood.  And it was not something that was comfortable to think about.  Working with inanimate objects was so much more appealing, so much less intimidating than getting involved in the spiritual realm and all the intricate inner workings of people.  Yet eventually I realized that it was too little to be a servant, as we hear in the second reading today – that I was being pulled into the light whether I wanted to be or not.

Now – you might think that this is a story that just belongs to those who have been called to the priesthood or religious life.  Or maybe some would say that this is a story that belongs to those who have been given authority over others in life: politicians, CEOs, commanders, teachers – that these positions of authority are those that are called to leave the task of being a servant behind and become a light for the nations.

I think that’s what people thought before Christ.  That there were the bright lights, the people who shined the way, and then there were those who followed, the servants.

But Christ revealed something new.  He brought Isaiah's prophecy to fulfillment.  It is too little, he said.  It is too little for you to be my servant.  I will make you a light to the nations for the salvation of the world.

He is speaking to all of you.  To all of you who have been baptized, who have been anointed priest, prophet, and king.  And that is what I finally realized when I was discerning the priesthood.  I realized that I could not escape the light – that I could not serve in the darkness.  That it was my baptism that was calling me out of the shadows, not my vocation to be a priest.  And that no matter what I did: whether I was a celibate priest, a married father, a single man, whether I was a potter, a teacher, a lawyer, the president, or a priest, I was called to be a light to the nations.

And the same goes for all of you.  It is not always easy news, that it is too little for us to be servants.  To be the light of Christ we must die to ourselves and rise to new life in him.  We must be converted, changed, altered, so that we can say with St. Paul “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  That is the universal aspiration of the Christian.  To become like John the Baptist: a man whose existence was to point only to Christ.  And even more.  Because in Baptism we were called not just to point to him – but to become a part of him:  to become his body in the world.  St. Augustine said to those receiving the Eucharist: receive what you are, become what you receive.

It is too little to be a servant.  We must work as Christ in the world, allowing him to work through us, to shine his divine light through us, to carry out his salvation through us.

We are called to go grocery shopping as Christ, to visit our elderly parents as Christ, to change diapers as Christ, to pump gas as Christ, to sell merchandise or answer email or run meetings or arrest criminals or put out fires or build homes or collect the trash or wait on tables as Christ.  Not as servants, but as a light to the nations, as the body of Christ alive in the world.

What is it like to no longer be yourself but to be Christ?  I don’t know – I’m still working on it.  I hear it is full of peace.  I hear that it is full of joy.  I hear that there are great things that happen, that are beyond our imaginings – when we stop trying to serve, and allow ourselves to be transformed into vessels of the light of Christ.  I hear that we lose nothing of ourselves, and that we gain everything in return.

“He who loves his life will lose it, he who hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

In our second reading St. Paul reminds us that we who are the Church of God have been sanctified in Christ Jesus and are called to be holy with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is too little to be a servant.  We are called to be saints.

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