Compare Yourself To Christ, Not To Others

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We spoke of prayer in our second week of STEPS and how according to St. James we may pray incorrectly because we ask for the wrong things, or we ask selfishly.  I sense that a more common mistake is when faced with a concern we don’t speak to God about it.  We keep it to ourselves, we worry or get anxious about it, but we don’t bring it to the Lord.  Often we do not submit to God and there’s the tendency to resolve the situation ourselves.  God is waiting to help us.

This week we speak about Service in a ministry, or even going on a mission.  In the gospel John, the beloved one of Christ, is concerned that other people who are not Jesus’ followers are doing acts of service.  Jesus responds by saying anyone who is doing something good in my name is on the same team as us.  If he is not against you, he is for you.

Jesus tells us the measure for greatness is to measure ourselves against Christ.  Most of us may not have the ambition to be great, but for sure we do not want to be mediocre.  The measure of greatness today is also elusive and we are not sure if it is worth the cost or if we can achieve it, or we tried before and failed.  We even heard last week that the apostles were arguing about who was the greatest, and when questioned they were too embarrassed to admit it.

It is good to know that the disciples did not follow Christ for altruistic or for self-less motives.  They were not looking for holiness or virtue.  They followed him because they thought one day he would be king and they would profit most.  Everyone falls into this trap as the apostles did who were arguing about who would have the most power in this earthly kingdom.  But Jesus said if anyone wishes to be great he shall be the last of all.

Don’t compare yourselves to others because you always lose.  Compare yourself to Christ and be realistic.  A popular speaker today says aim low in the sense of don’t set unreasonable targets for yourself.  You curled 20 pounds in the gym last week; next step curl 22.5 pounds.  It is a challenge to do that, and something that you are capable of doing.  Do the same with service or with prayer; aim at a doable goal for this week.

True greatness is about serving others.  It means taking my abilities and skills and leveraging them for the benefit of others, not for self.  Learning to serve people who can do nothing for us is crucial in growing in faith.  It is an attitude of the heart and should be always present in our lives.  Be intentional about it.  Sign up for something today in the parish in order to test yourself.  Jesus says the simplest act of service, even giving someone a glass of water, is seen and rewarded by God.  I remember in my 20’s of learning how to get up the minute the alarm went off in the morning and not hitting the snooze button.  It took me a while but it probably was one of the most important battles I won in my life, and it led me to other victories after I realized that I could say no to myself.

It is interesting what parts of the body Jesus mentions in the gospel (Mark 9: 38-48): hands, feet and eyes.  Hands are crucial for doing, feet for going places and eyes to see what we crave.  As a Christian do those things led me to God or away from him?  If they cause me to trip, Jesus says cut them out.  If surfing the internet is going to be a problem put a filter to block bad sites; it makes your life easier.  A Christian man or woman needs to be able to say no to the world, in order to say yes to God.

One can serve in a ministry in the parish by giving some of your time on a regular basis, once or twice a month.  And nothing helps your faith to develop as service.  So pray about this.  Is it time to give it a chance?  You can serve as a parking lot minister creating a sense of welcome, or a greeter at the doors or ministering to the next generation of kids or a visit to the elderly or sick.  There are many other ways to help as well like the choir or in our ‘ops’ operations department.  Also it is fundamental to practice service at home in something simple, like making your bed, keeping your desk clear, or a hundred other things.

Ministry is a path to greatness and we all want to be great to some degree.  Being a disciple of Christ involves following him, getting behind him and taking the next step.  It is important to pray about where God is calling you at this point in your life and to move in that direction.  He is not looking for perfection but for a generous heart.  Aim low and give it a try!