Sunday, October 17, 2021

Selfless service

As a deacon, I need to point out that Jesus is the deacon par excellence. He is a deacon because he came to serve and not to be served. Jesus became great by becoming less than nothing. Christians win by losing and succeed by failing.

Our first reading is taken from one of Isaiah's Servant Songs. Assuming that these Servant Songs point to Jesus Christ (something Christians generally tend to assume), it should not be lost on us that the very beginning of our first reading tells us that it "pleased" God "to crush him," the Servant. It is because of affliction, not despite it, he will live.

Yet, despite all of this, we still want to win by winning and succeed by succeeding. In short, we want to be served rather than to serve. As our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, Christ is our great High Priest who can intercede for us because, once again, of his afflictions.



In baptism, you were anointed as priest, prophet, royalty. Hence, the life of every baptized person is to be lived in imitatio Christi. I don't mind repeating that just as there is a priesthood of all the baptized, there is a diaconate of all the baptized.

Like last week, the core message of this week's readings is not difficult to figure out. What is difficult is receiving the message and taking it to heart. We avoid this directness because it makes big demands on us. It's important to keep in mind that service is not a list of specific tasks to be carried out. For Christians, service is the mode of Christian life. Another thing I think it's important to reiterate is that orthopraxis (right action) is more important than orthodoxy (right belief).

As it pertains to the Church, broadly construed [there is no Christianity without the Church and the only way to conceive of the Church is broadly, consisting of all the baptized], I beg your indulgence in posting a brief excerpt from my dissertation:
Noting the fundamental shift in how the world relates to the church since the Enlightenment, which liberated people from sometimes-stifling ecclesial control, synchronizing with the Second Vatican Council, especially Gaudium et spes, [Avery] Dulles notes how important it is for the church to adapt to this new situation. Failure to adapt to this situation, he insists, is that the “Church admonishes the world [and] the world, generally speaking feels justified in paying no heed.” What this adaptation consists of is recognizing that Christ came to serve and not be served and so the church places itself at the service of the world. Hence, Dulles points out that the model of church “that best harmonizes with this attitude is that of Servant" [from Dulles's Models of Church]

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