Jesus Took The Form Of A Servant!

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we close out our series on “Who do people think I am” we continue to look at Jesus Christ and our identity flows out of being a follower of Christ.  It is not easy but hopefully this is something that you aspire to do.  To look at this again let us check out the reading of St. Paul to the Philippians (2: 1-11).  He is in prison while he wrote this letter and one of his main themes is to always have joy. It is pretty amazing that he would write about joy knowing that his death is coming.  Paul tells us that if we have received any encouragement from Christ then complete my joy by being of one heart and mind.  He is calling all of us to unite around this identity.  If you have found encouragement in Christ is similar to the question, do you love your kids?  Of course, is the answer, I hope.  Then do nothing out of selfishness and vanity.  Humbly regard others as more important than yourself and view others as more important than yourself.

It does not mean that you should not care for yourself, but view them as more important than yourself.  Get into the habit of putting others ahead of you, in line, in your thoughts, it making your plans.  Have the same attitude as Jesus Christ.  Here is the identity that you are looking for: Christ emptied himself and took the form of a servant.  Wow, he did this?  Why would he do it and why would I follow him in doing it?  He knew that God would exalt him in the end; especially on the cross he knew this.

So when you have an opportunity, serve the other, even on the road, in traffic.  Leverage your position or your wealth or your influence to serve others.  God will reward you.  Don’t look for human recognition.  It is better if you can serve without being noticed or drawing attention to yourself.  Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is giving, said Jesus.  God sees everything and will lift you up and exalt you.  Not just in the life to come but also in this life.  Serve without looking for money or being compensated in some way.  Your glory will come only from Christ.

So we invite you to look for a chance to serve.  It is a key step to more seriously follow Christ: serve on a ministry team.  There are people greeting you at the door or even outside.  There are people who are taking care of the pre-schoolers, and others who are teaching kids in class rooms, or meeting with them in small groups.  There are people who contribute every week to the poor, others who organize and do service projects for the poor in Newark.  There are other people who serve in the office and on committees who you never see in these roles, and they have been doing it for years.

Lastly, your work should be a service, at home you have many opportunities to serve.  Ask the others what you could do to serve them.  Teens you would blow away your parents when you ask this question and follow up on it.  When it comes to our identity let us look to Christ.  He knows better than anyone else!

Jesus takes a subtle approach in the gospel this weeks and ask the religious leaders, “What do you think?”  And he tells the parable about a man with two sons (Mt 21-: 28-32).  He goes out to each son and he appeals in a fatherly way.  Maybe, just maybe the religious leaders will be moved by what the first son did.  Jesus always draws men to himself, not to something abstract, but his own person.  He will draw more closely to you as you learn to serve.

The first son says, “I will not go.”  And then he goes into the vineyard.  The gospel brilliantly expresses real tensions of life: doing and saying, appearances and reality, intentions and follow through, and the gradual nature of spiritual growth.  Good intentions and positive outlook are assets in the work of God, but it may also mask a state of indifference, or even resistance to the others close to you.  What they actually do, and not what they say is what distinguishes the two sons from one another.

Then the son had a change of mind; he was moved by repentance and joined his father in the vineyard.  He has a healthy conscience, alleluia!!  He has a sense of responsibility and a spacious relationship with his father.  He doesn’t feel coerced.  And he follows what his conscience tells him.  How delicious will the wine of this harvest be?

“The father went to the other son.”  But this son is like the rocky soil, whose roots are not deep and is burnt by the scorching sun.  His immediate response is given without thinking and was shallow.  It brings up the question of how a human will tainted by sin can be open and gradually turn to the Father.   He only hopes that he will join him in his vineyard.  He, you and I will be judged on our final condition, not on our intentions.   God has great patience with us, brothers and sisters.  But don’t wait forever.

In the long run God is only interested in what you do with your freedom.  He wants to help you to live for others, not for yourself.  The nature of Jesus and Mary was always to say, yes!  Let us ask their help to imitate them a little this week.  Don’t be afraid to try one of the ministries is your parish and see what God has to say to you.