Today’s Gospel from John begins as Jesus had just finished washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus then said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him” (Jn 13:16). Jesus not only taught the truth that God the Father sent his Son to serve and not be served, he modeled this practice consistently.
From his conception, gestation, and birth, the Son of God came to be human in the very simplest of conditions and endured the hardships of those on the margins early on. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were political refugees very soon after his birth. The young family was forced to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt. When Herod the Great died they returned to Nazareth, and other than the incident in the Temple, we hear nothing about the life of Jesus until he begins his public ministry. The most likely reason for this was that there was nothing to tell. Jesus most likely apprenticed with Joseph, in the trade of a simple tektōn, a woodworker, which was pretty low on the rung of the social ladder.
Through the short time of his ministry, Jesus modeled for his disciples what a follower of his entailed and what it meant to be one of his successors. To follow in his footsteps they would need to participate in servant leadership. There is no task too menial, that we can’t roll up our sleeves and dive in to help. There is no person too other that we can’t assist when they are in a need.
A good prayer and meditation for us today is to ask Jesus to reveal for us how we have resisted his urgings in the past regarding serving others in our realm of influence and interaction, as well as thinking or believing that what he was asking of us was beneath us. Have there been people we refused to reach out to for similar reasons? For those ways in which we have withdrawn within ourselves may we ask for his forgiveness. If we start to notice a habitual pattern of resistance we may want to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Being willing to allow Jesus to shed some light on our lack of embracing opportunities to serve is a good place to begin. Renewed with his forgiveness and healing touch, may we ask Jesus to guide us today to be bearers of the grace and mercy we have received from him. May we ask to be open to each of the people and/or tasks that God will place before us, the discernment to know his will, and the clarity and courage to act as his servant with humility and without hesitation.
Photo: Grounds work during my novitiate year with the Franciscans in Brookline, MA.