TUESDAY HOMILY: Standing on My Head
The Servant King
He undermines the self righteous religious people with a joke and overturns their expectations with a miracle. He breaks their little laws because he keeps greater laws and he scolds the respectable people while mixing with the low life. Just when you thought you had him nailed he ends up getting nailed (literally) Just when his enemies thought he was down for good he rose up for better.
Time and again in his teachings and his actions Jesus shakes us up and makes us see the world, ourselves and himself in a completely fresh way. In today's gospel he tells a story which seems like many of his other stories. The servants are waiting for the return of the master. They have 'girded up their loins'.
This means their long robes were tied up around their waist so they could move about quickly and efficiently. They standing waiting and are ready for action. The master comes home and finds them ready to serve, but then the story is turned upside down. It is the master who girds up his loins and bids them recline at table and suddenly the Master becomes the servant and the servants are being waited on.
Do you see all the different things going on in this story? Suddenly remember the Lord's words about himself, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." Remember the details from the last supper? The parable in today's gospel foreshadows the moment when Jesus ties a towel around his waist and kneels to take the lowest place and wash his disciples feet.
The story echoes St Paul's words to the Philippians, "Being in the form of God, Christ Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be held on to, but lowering himself, took the form of a servant and...being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross."
What does the mean for me? There are several lessons. First of all, what if I were to stand on my head and see the world in a different way? What if I were to get up in the morning with the total conviction that I too was here not to be served, but to serve? This is the sort of turn around that would be a true revolution.
If I were to do this I would not be evolving but revolving. My whole life would be turned upside down and all around. Furthermore, should I seek not to be served, but to serve, my life would actually improve. My relationships would take a huge leap forward. My career would get better My family life would get better and my spiritual life would zoom ahead.
Some years ago there was a business training book written called Servant Leadership. The author proposed that if the leaders in a business were to adopt the attitude of service and they filtered that attitude and ethos down to their employees that the whole business would be revolutionized. He showed how the improved attitude improved behaviors, relationship among staff and with customers and that the entire business and everyone in it prospered.
The same can be applied to any group of people and to the whole world. What if were were all to adopt the surprising and disturbing behavior of standing on our heads and standing expectations on our heads by truly serving others rather than expecting to be served?
It is a delightful surprise to also find that the most beloved title for the Holy Father the Pope is "servus servorum Dei"--which being translated is "Servant of the Servants of God." Beneath all the pomp and finery of the papacy; beneath all the high ceremony and grandeur we honor not so much a monarch and a master, but the Servant of the Servants of God. Did you know that is why the Pope, under his chasuble, wears a dalmatic?
The dalmatic is the vestment worn by deacons. The first deacons were appointed to wait on the tables and look after the poor and needy in the Christian community. The dalmatic is their vestment and the sign of their office. All priests (including the Pope) were ordained deacon before they were ordained priest, and so all priests are also deacons, and if deacons, then they are also servants of the servants of God.
The last thing is this: all the baptized, within their own vocation and calling, share in the sacred priesthood. We are a hold people, a sacred priesthood. We could add that all the baptized also share in the deacon's ministry of service for that ministry is none other than the ministry of Christ the Lord, who stood the world on it's head and came down from heaven not first as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but as an ordinary teacher and preacher--one who came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Fr Dwight Longenecker blogs at Standing on My Head. Follow his blog and connect to his website to browse his books and contact him to speak at your conference or parish mission.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Service, Servant King, Standing on My Head
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