25th Sunday Year B: Irish College Rome. Homily Notes.
A wise older person used to advise me that when there are difficult situations to resolve and you have to talk to someone about something that might see you having to express your viewpoint that might not be easy for the other person to take on board, try and put yourself “beneath” the person, that is, don’t come at things “from above” but “from below”, offering your viewpoint, drawing on your experience.
Jesus in today’s Gospel seems to be giving good advice to his disciples. Make yourself last, see yourself as a servant of all. Beneath, under, below.
Not in the sense, of course, of an inferiority complex, the kind of thought “I’m useless, nothing to give”. Not that. Jesus clearly calls us to be confident disciples, knowing how much God love us. And that’s why he provides us with a wonderful image – that of a child. A child is “little” by their size and age. But the child has the wonderful attribute to trusting in their Father. I always love the little story of the child on the ship in a storm. Everyone thrown every which way, and the child there calm and serene. When asked is he’s not afraid, he replies, “ah no, my dad’s captain of the ship”. The child trust, the child knows he or she is carried by their father and mother; the child is at home with the father and mother.
Jesus wants us to be at home with ourselves as a child of God because we are at home in the God who loves us, personally, uniquely. We can be confident in God’s love. And if we are at home in God, we won’t need to lord it over others, getting caught up in jealousies and wrangling and ambition and checking out which of us is the best. They are all aspects that come from the insecurity in our hearts when we absent ourselves from our true identity: I am a child of God, and all others are my sisters and brothers in whom I can see God’s work and be glad. Dorothy Day, for instance, said, "The longer I live the more I see God at work in people who don't have the slightest interest in religion.” What matters to be happy to be what God created me to be uniquely with my personality, character and circumstances: a servant of all.
It’s good for us as we go about our daily tasks – whether it be desk work, boring work, exciting work, meeting people, being on our own, studying… to see everything as an opportunity to be a servant of all.
Of course, this isn’t always easy. There are moments of conflict, tensions, disputes that are part of life. That’s why Jesus was so careful to teach his disciples about the Cross. It’s the secret at the heart of Christianity. As Pope Francis said during the week, the Cross is not an ornament or something you put up on the walls of a school and then forget about it. The Cross is reminder of who it is we are following: Jesus who showed us the way of life that’s true for all situations we find ourselves in, even if at times we have to act decisively, clearly, taking difficult measures – the basic attitude of the Cross must be there – to lay down your life in service of others, placing yourself beneath them, from below, at their service. We see it in Pope Francis himself. He often says being Pope isn’t always easy. We can only imagine how many difficult and complex issues he has to face. But he keeps his compass fixed on Christ, the One who knew how to lay down his life for others. And with that attitude beneath his actions, the Pope instills joy in those he meets. Because he remains focussed in following the Cross, he spreads hope.