Servants of Christ – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David VryhofMatthew 20:17-28

What comes to mind when you hear the word “servant” or “slave”?  Most of us imagine a person who is not free to do what he pleases, one who lacks the power or freedom or resources to direct his own life, one who must work to fulfill the desires of another. We think of a servant or slave as powerless in relation to his superior. His station in life demands that he constantly set aside his own desires to fulfill the desire of his master. For most of us, it is not an enviable position. How many of us would willingly sacrifice our independence and autonomy to become the slave of another person?

And yet, the willingness to serve others is the hallmark of greatness in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…”

In his letter to the Christians at Corinth Paul asks them to “think of us in this way, as servants of Christ.” He says this with pride, not shame. He is not embarrassed that he has been reduced to the role of a servant; he does not regret that he is no longer free to do his own will and is compelled to do the bidding of another. Nor is there any suggestion that he has been forced to become a servant – in fact, the opposite is true: Paul has voluntarily chosen to take up this role. He sees it as a glorious privilege to be considered a servant of Christ. He sees it as a blessing to live no longer for himself, but for Christ. He is honored to have been entrusted with divine mysteries, and feels both an obligation and a desire to be found trustworthy in this responsibility.

There is a great difference between one who has been forced into a position of servitude and one who has freely chosen to serve. It is LOVE that inspires in us the desire to serve. Only love can make such a choice. How different it is to serve another for love’s sake than it is to serve out of obligation or duty!

Jesus comes into the world not to be served, but to serve. He comes not to do his own will, but the will of the One who sent him.  He “empties himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.” He does this for love.

Similarly, Paul sets aside his place of privilege in society, his reputation, his accomplishments and the honors he has earned – everything he has – to be counted as Christ’s servant. He does this for love. When we love we want to serve. We long to be given some task that will contribute to the good purposes of the one we love. A mother longs to serve her children – out of love. A husband longs to please his wife – out of love. We willingly set aside our own desires and preferences, we lay down our lives, for the sake of those whom we love. The greatest hope of those who have chosen to serve as the expression of love is that they may be found trustworthy; they can imagine no greater joy than to do what pleases the other.

Are you a servant of Christ? Have you freely, willingly, and with great generosity relinquished your own desires and purposes to align yourself with his? Do you long to be given some task to please and help him? Do you want nothing more than to be found trustworthy in his service, to be one who can be counted on to be faithful, honest, and good? Do you count it an honor and privilege to be a servant of Christ?

Only love can make this choice.

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  1. Jane Buttery on March 5, 2015 at 21:17

    Oh dear my keyboard keeps leaving out ” I’s” unless I punch hard. Please forgive missng letters above. Thanks

  2. Jane Buttery on March 5, 2015 at 21:14

    I chose to serve at my church and to study all the diaconate courses because love God and wanted to be ‘His hands and feet’ in my community. That desire came from knowing Philippians 2;5-8 which reveals the humilty of Christ who became a slave. If God can do so much for us, can do a little. I love visiting the sick, those too old to get out to church and newcomers.Jesus tells us to love each other, help those in need and spread the good news. witnesses must also be servants.

  3. David Roman on March 5, 2015 at 18:04

    In 2005, during a conversation with a New York Times reporter, reflecting on the challenging circumstances she faced throughout her life, and her celebrated opera career as a coloratura soprano, Ms. Beverly Sills said … “Man plans and God laughs.” She added: “I have often said I’ve never considered myself a happy woman. How could I, with all that’s happened to me. But I’m a cheerful woman. Work kept me going.”

  4. Ruth West on March 5, 2015 at 15:22

    I once went to a priest for counseling when I was distraught with a marital problem. He asked, “Just what do you want?” I replied in tears, “I just want to be happy.” He said, “Do you realize that one should not seek happiness? Rather, he/she should seek to serve. Happiness is a by-product of service.” That counseling session (and confession) changed my heart and life. It has stayed with me through the years. I feel happy, more so when I have been of some small service to others and to my Lord Christ than at any other time. Thanks for your good homily!

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