READINGS: Isaiah 53:10-11 / Heb. 4:14-16 / Mark 10:35-45
Theme: Seek First Service, Not Honour
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved, because of a research programme I am pursuing at the University of Ghana, I have been granted a sabbatical year for my studies. Actually, I have not been preaching since my last homily on Sunday, 23rd September. However, because of your interest in reading my homilies, I have decided to continue to provide you with the service; and thanks to Godwin Delali Adadzie, my website manager, you have now become my virtual ‘congregation’. In line with the service Godwin and I are providing you, I find today’s theme very appropriate: ‘Seek First Service, Not Honour’.
Not too long ago, in one of the European countries, the person who was given the national best worker award was later stripped of the honour. Why? Because, she actually didn’t deserved it, as she didn’t even show up for work half of that year. And a further enquiry into the matter revealed that the three top members of the award’s panel of judges were her relations. Certainly this woman sought honour first and not service first, and eventually lost the honour.
Similarly in today’s gospel reading, the two sons of Zebedee (James and John) sought honour first – to sit at the right and left hands of the Lord in his kingdom – without first engaging themselves in the service that might bring them that honour. Jesus took the occasion to teach that we should seek first service, not honour: ‘You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be the first among you must be a slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
Service, beloved, entails a lot, but limiting myself to the gospel reading, let me pick out only two of its ingredients: humility and sacrifice.
Service entails humility; that is why the Lord said: ‘whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be the first among you must be a slave of all.’ And what follows humility? Honour, of course! This is very clear in the Book of Proverbs: ‘before honour is humility’ (Proverbs 15:13). And Jesus himself says: ‘anyone who humbles him/herself will be exalted [honoured]’ (Luke 14:11).
Secondly, service entails sacrifice; that is why in giving himself as an example for emulation, Jesus did not simply say: ‘the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve’. Rather, he quickly added: ‘and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ And certainly, any sacrifice pleasing to the Lord is rewarded plentifully. That is why last Sunday’s gospel reading reminded us that Jesus promises a hundredfold of blessing for the sacrifices we make for his sake (Mark 10:29-30).
Beloved, in our families, churches, workplaces, schools or communities, let us not only wait for the opportunity to serve, but let us look for the opportunity to serve. Furthermore, let us do so with humility and cheerfully offer the sacrifice which that service may require, conscious that it is the Lord we service; and the Lord whom we service and who sees everything [He doesn’t need a panel of judges to assist Him to assess our performance] will honour us eternally, amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis