When you observe fine jewelry, you notice that the entire piece is beautiful and well made, but here and there, there is a gem of even greater beauty for which the rest acts as a setting.
There are gems like this in the gospel. When asked which was the greatest of the commandments, Our Lord answered: Love the Lord your God. And then he gave a second like the first: Love your neighbor as yourself. When his disciples asked him to teach them to pray, he gave them the Our Father. When he wanted to describe a true Christian—a true follower of his—he gave us the Beatitudes. And to tell us how to live our lives, he gave us the Sermon on the Mount. Earlier during Lent, he told us in the gospel: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. He also tells us in the gospel: I have not come to be served, but to serve. And it is implied that he wants us to behave in like manner. What, essentially, is Christian spirituality? These gems. These outline the essence of the religion that Jesus came into the world to preach.
It is natural to want to be at the top of the heap, to exercise authority, to dominate and command others, to be in charge, “to call the shots,” as the saying goes. And yet, how did Jesus die? Nailed to a cross. What could possibly be less “in command” than that? To die in agony, unable to move and finally unable to breathe—this is the very antithesis of power, authority, command, and the state of being served by others.
One of the titles used by our Popes is “servus servorum Dei—the servant of the servants of God.” We have the vocation to serve, that is, to obey, God. And the Holy Father is there to serve us as our shepherd, our leader, our guide in our service of God. When one is wealthy and has servants to do his/her bidding, one tends to become proud, arrogant, giving orders and expecting to be obeyed. The poor who must ask of others what they need are much less likely to be arrogant and proud. This is why poverty is much closer to sanctity than is wealth.
If we are to be truly Christian, we must go through life constantly asking, interiorly if not exteriorly, whenever we encounter anyone, “may I help you?” “How can I be of assistance to you?” When that becomes second nature with us, then we are truly “putting on the mind of Christ,” as Saint Paul instructs us to do. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.