29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
18, 2015 9:00 and 11:00am Masses
Saint Margaret Parish,
Servant and Slave
I often enjoy asking high school seniors what colleges they are looking at and what career they are interested in pursuing.
Naturally, I often hear UMBC, HCC, Loyola, and on it goes. And I hear about careers like computer science, physical therapy, business, and on it goes.
I have never heard anyone say “I want to be a servant” or “I want to be a slave.” In our day and age, that would be ridiculous.
But, today Jesus talks about being a “servant” and even being a “slave.” I have been thinking about one way, maybe not the only way, but one way that Jesus’ words speak to all of us.
My thinking is that Jesus’ words – “servant” and “slave” – call us to be responsible.
In our day, I see Jesus asking us to assume a sense of responsibility for the earth and for human life. And to do this, we need to be aware of the interconnectedness of things – of how what we do affects other things.
For the Earth
So, Pope Francis recently issued a long letter addressed to everyone in the world, not just Catholics.
Its English title is “On the Care of Our Common Home.” Isn’t that a beautiful title?
“On the Care” – taking care of – “Our Common Home” – the home that belongs to all of us, all of humanity. Francis is calling us to be responsible for the earth.
To do this, we need to be aware of the interconnectedness of things. For example, polluting our atmosphere with harmful emissions seems to have harmful effects on the oceans, on agricultural land, and on climate.
Or, our over-consuming uses up the earth’s resources faster than they can be replaced. It may threaten the future in ways we may not even realize.
So, being “servant” or “slave” means being responsible for the earth and seeing the interconnectedness of things.
For Human Life
And then I am thinking that we need to be responsible for human life.
Again, we need to be awake to the effects of what we do. For example, when we lash out at a family member at home or a salesperson at a store, we diminish human life.
Or, when we imitate the disrespectful level of conversation that we often see on TV talk shows, we diminish human life. Or, when we treat certain persons with disdain because they are different from us in some way, we diminish human life.
In these examples, we are in effect treating others as expendable. So, we need to be awake to the reality that the disrespect of one person or group contributes to a disrespect of human life in general.
That in turn creates a culture of disrespect – a culture of disrespect – and then the next step is violence and even the taking of vulnerable human life. So, not to focus on these “smaller,” everyday behaviors that create this culture is a real mistake.
Being “servant” or “slave” means being responsible for human life and seeing the interconnectedness of things.
I want to conclude with this.
On the one hand, Jesus’ words about being “servant” and “slave” call us to look beyond ourselves. He calls us to look to the good of others, from the unborn to the very elderly, from America to Zambia.
He calls us to be responsible for the earth and for human life. At the same time, Jesus’ words call us to look within ourselves.
They call us to ask: What can we as individual persons do? Maybe it is as simple as resolving to recycle paper, glass, plastics, and any materials that do not have to be wasted.
Or maybe we need to resolve to listen a lot more and try to understand the perspective of certain persons and not demonize them. The idea: look inside, not at others and what they do, but look at myself and my life, and see what I can practically start to do today.
This will be the way to be “servant” and “slave.” It will be the way to be responsible for the earth and for human life.