FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
OUR THEME FOR 2014
A HUMBLE WITNESS
September 30, 2013
Today’s gospel: Luke 9:46-50
Christ’s disciples are called to witness to Jesus and are accordingly empowered, since they engage in divine work and they assault a powerful enemy, and can only do so if they are empowered from on high. But here is embedded a threat to their witness: they can become proud, and in their pride can become engaged in rivalry and exclusivity and intolerance of outsiders.
The apostles were sent out and they healed the sick and drove out demons. Now they were already arguing among themselves about who of them was the greatest (Lk 9:46). Now they considered themselves so privileged (they were after all chosen by Jesus himself and given personal training), walking and working with Jesus himself, that no one else outside their company could be worthy of doing what they were doing (Lk 9:49).
This happens to servant leaders and ecclesial communities in various ways:
* Being recognized by the Vatican and plastering that on their letterhead for everyone to know.
* Taking pride in having the greater harvest from evangelization work (and perhaps even looking down on others who don’t do as well).
* Speaking against other groups with parish priests and bishops in order to prevent them from serving in areas where one’s group already is present.
* Boasting of one’s numerical membership (even inflating it) and always being concerned about adding members rather than just saving souls.
* Infighting among leaders over resources, assignments, jurisdiction, etc.
Such pride is of course the prelude to being opposed by God and being brought down by Him.
What is the proper posture? It is being like a little child. Why? Because the child has no pretensions to power and glory, is totally dependent upon older people and cannot accomplish great things just by himself, just follows directions, and, in the early times of Jesus, had no stature in society.
Now a disciple that is “the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” (Lk 9:48b). The one who is not proud, who in fact is humbled by the great privilege of being called to be a servant leader, who recognizes his nothingness apart from Christ, is the one who will be empowered to witness. He is a witness because he is like Jesus, who humbled himself and did not cling to power and stature. He will be empowered because he has become a fitting instrument in and through whom Jesus can really act. Of him Jesus can truly say, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Lk 9:48a). And see what a blessing it is to the one we witness to? Whoever receives us receives Jesus, and thus receives the Father in heaven.
It actually is comic sometimes when we consider ourselves so great, and what we do so much, when, in the overall scheme of things, we actually do so little. We pride ourselves in how many we have evangelized, when we barely even scratch the surface of the work of evangelizing the whole world. In blessing our work, we think we are the anointed ones (and yes we are), but miss out on the reality that God anoints many others as well, because the work is so huge.
Some servant leaders speak against other servant leaders. Some try to prevent them (the latter) from doing what they (the former) are already doing because they do not want “their” territory encroached upon. Some even try to malign and bring down the good work of others just because it is not their own work. “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” (Lk 9:49). The man was casting our demons in the name of Jesus! That was doing the very work of God. But the apostles objected, simply because the man was not one of them.
So Jesus said, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Lk 9:50). There are many persons, groups, movements, ministries and programs that God will call, put together and empower, in order to do the massive work of evangelization that He wants done. It is not only you! If you prevent others, can you do such massive work on your own? They are for Jesus (acting in his name), against Satan (casting out demons), and therefore are not against you but are for you. That is, if you in fact are for Jesus and against Satan. If you have sinful pride, then you are not following in the footsteps of Jesus but are actually following in the footsteps of Lucifer, who became Satan. In which case, you are the one to be excluded.
Let there be no argument about who is the greatest. Let there in fact be a rush to take the lowest place.
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