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Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
Jesus said to the Apostles: “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
Opening Prayer: Holy Spirit, help me to hear your voice and inspire in me the right words and attitudes during this prayer.
- The Strange Concept of Servitude: In modern times, perhaps we have become overly sensitive to the concept of hierarchy in response to our strong belief that all citizens are equal. However, we still experience a basic need for authority and, hence, for a hierarchical structure. In this Gospel, Jesus refers to a social hierarchy which, to our mind, seems oppressive, but he clearly focuses on the sober realization of our own status as persons under authority. We have no difficulty in understanding ourselves as servants before the Almighty, but how do we acknowledge and support the need for authority in our modern society?
- Taking Pride in One’s Identity: In our day, being driven to seek a career promotion is considered healthy ambition. The mentality of Jesus’s time was different. Rising in social ranks was not common. Goodness meant, for the most part, to be content with your station in life and perform your job well. These days, healthy ambition is properly encouraged, but the desire to do the job at hand to the best of our ability should be encouraged as well. “Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits” (Thomas Jefferson).
- An Unprofitable Servant: The devil says seek to “become like gods.” Instead, let’s embrace the wonders of our humble status as human persons. We are weak, but called to be strong in Christ; small, but called to contemplate his greatness; insignificant, but sent to proclaim to the world the one thing that truly matters—that we are children of the eternal, loving God. As such, our “low status” is what makes us great.
Conversing with Christ: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Magnificat).
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will adopt the humble attitude of the “unprofitable servant” from the parable, or the “lowly servant” in Mary’s Magnificat during a charitable task or chore at work or at home.
For Further Reflection: “Jesus presents himself as a servant, the one who came to serve and not to be served: He says so clearly. And so, the Lord shows the Apostles the path of those who have received the faith, that faith which works miracles. Yes, this faith will do wonders on the path of service” (Pope Francis, homily on November 11, 2014: Complete homily).
Written by Fr. Gabriel von Wendt, LC.