Is 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45
In the Gospel Jesus describes greatest as the one who serves. What does it mean to be a servant? What does a servant look like in your own experience? These readings caused me to think about servants I have known. The older I get, the more I recognize that my dad was the very model of servant for me. I grew to see this evermore clearly after his death in 1997. My dad was literally a server. He served at table as a waiter for 50 years in what was then one of only two five-star restaurants in downtown Boston. He was one of nine children born to Italian immigrants in Boston. He left high school at the age of 17 to begin work as a busboy in this restaurant in order to support his family in the height of the depression. During World War II, he served his country as a medic in England at the South Hampton Naval Station Hospital. He told me stories about how he cleaned American service men, casualties of war, who had lost their arms and legs. He would often say to me as he recounted the stories: “Albert, never be afraid to get your hands dirty! You can always wash your hands!” Upon his return from war, given his experience as a medic, he cared for his mother who was confined to a wheelchair. A serious diabetic, she had had both of her legs amputated. Those who attend diabetics need to exercise special caution in making up their bed in order to prevent bedsores. As a medic, my dad knew how to make up a hospital bed. In later years after he married, my mother became a diabetic and he took care of her as well. I have memories from when I was a boy of him giving my mother her insulin injection every morning. When she suffered a serious stroke in 1978, he retired early from his career as a waiter, in order to care full time for my mother. After her death in 1980, he began caring for his elderly brothers and sisters as he was the second youngest among the nine of them. Of course, in between the acts, he was caring for me as well and from his earnings as the sole support of our family, he paid for all my tuitions at Boston College. The image of him as serving others has grown more luminous in my memory since my own call to the priesthood. Indeed, I believe it is his prayers that led me from career as a professor to stand here before you as a priest. There are other persons who have modeled servant-hood in my life. But now it’s time for you to think about the servant models are in your life. As Jesus tells us in the Gospel today, the key to greatness in human life is sharing our very selves with others, serving their needs with our gifts. Many of you are doing this right now. So the second question becomes: How are the persons who have modeled the servant in your life leading you to exercise service of others yourself. Jesus tells us this is the way to greatness. Otherwise we live just for ourselves. Remember: “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.” In the falling and the dying, the grain grows to be much, much more, serving and nourishing many. You want your life to be more, don’t you? Of course you do! Serve with the gifts you have, and you will be great in the Lord’s eyes. Can it be that simple? Taste and see. The Lord is good.