Seen on Facebook the other day: “Vote as you please … but please vote.” Good slogan.
It’s kind of a reminiscing weekend. First of all, we at Immaculate Heart of Mary are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of our current church building. Our “quinquagenarian” (yeah, I had to look that up) still looks pretty darn good for its age … and we’re thankful for whomever decided on brick architecture! Lots of interior changes over the years, but the outside is pretty much the same except for the addition of the bell tower and the cultivation of the grounds. Of note is the fact that one priest who began his ministerial career almost as far back as the dedication is still serving as a pastor in Albuquerque—Fr. Arkad Biczak at St. John XXIII parish. Fifty years or more of his own dedicated service.
Another thing brought to mind recently was a convent I used to visit—I get automatic e-mails on the notification of a death. While their religious community is diminishing rapidly, they still have many nuns who took their solemn vows back in the 1940s, and their last sister from the 1930s professions only recently passed away at age 101. So many decades of faithful service to God and to humanity in all that they have done over the decades.
Then another reminiscence of an old NROTC classmate from college who just attained to a high position in the Marine Corps. Ol’ Gary … a mild-mannered guy whom I thought would get out of the military after few years and become a lawyer or something. Just goes to show you the fallibility of our prognostications. Regardless … we are certainly grateful to ALL in our service in the military, and special thanks to all who have made that service a lifelong career.
Time (and space) fails to list all of the unsung who give their life’s service to others daily, especially in essential but non-lucrative positions such as teachers, social workers, nurses, police, firefighters, etc. In the Christian sphere, we think especially of missionaries to poverty-stricken countries or nations with governments hostile to faith, as well as the likes of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity who work for the relief of the poorest of the poor. Among the poorest of the poor.
I thought of such with our Gospel passage of the Catholic Mass this Sunday (Oct. 21)—the story of the apostles James and John from Mark 10 asking to sit at Jesus’ right hand in His kingdom, and the other apostles getting ticked at them. Yet Jesus responds to them all … and to us: “…great ones make their authority over [others] felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And Jesus, not content with words, with His actions became the very epitome of service and self-sacrifice.
True charity and service—like true faith—is not something with which we cloak ourselves for convenience or profit; that is the hypocrisy that Jesus excoriated in the Pharisees of His time. Rather, true charity and service—life true faith—is an attitude, belief and way of life.
We Christians cannot help but recall and revere Jesus’ own example of charity: the feedings of the five and four thousand, His healings of the sick, disabled and infirm … and even His empathy for the grieving and bringing some of the dead back to life. His leadership was service, just as the leadership of a teacher or any leader is service if done with the right spirit.
Christians also recall the many times the New Testament writers urge us on to charity and service—both in their recollections of Jesus’ own words, and in their subsequent missionary texts. The Letter of James particularly comes to mind: “…judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment. What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? … Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works…” (James 2:13-14, 21-22)
It is the human paradox that the more we seek the good of others, the greater is our own happiness. In humble service to God and to others do we find true and meaningful purpose in life. So, as St. Paul writes: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Corinthians 10:24), for Jesus Himself assures us: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) Because the more we hoard for ourselves, the poorer we become…while “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17)