July 9, 2021

Guest Column / Richard Etienne

Though countercultural, our faith calls us to serve others

Richard EtienneHave you ever been struck with how countercultural so many Gospel messages are to the society into which we find ourselves immersed today?

Take the concept of climbing higher and higher—at work, in society, in community or various organizations. Or the idea of seeking the attention of those persons deemed “popular” by society’s standards. The list of examples is inexhaustible.

It seems that forms of ambition have been a common human experience for centuries.

We see it in the Gospel account of Matthew (Mt 20:20-21) when the mother of James and John approaches Jesus to ask that her sons be given places of honor—one at Jesus’ right, the other at his left— in his kingdom.

“Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can.’ He replied, ‘My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, [this] is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father’ ” (Mt 20:22-23).

He continued, “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant” (Mt 20:26).

Talk about a radical idea: a focus on service to others that defines greatness!

Those of us from older generations were taught that we were “created to know and to serve God.” That is what our faith boils down to. If we want to be followers of Jesus, we are not created to climb the ladder of success for our own glory.

My natural tendency has always been to succeed. But I must always be alert to the motives for my actions—and strive to do things for God’s glory, not my own. I must be mindful of this distinction and focus on being a person of service: service in my marriage, service to my Church, service to various charitable organizations, service to my friends and neighbors in need. Even service at appropriate times to my adult children.

Who are the specific persons and organizations that you feel called to serve with your time and talents? Or is now an appropriate time to refocus your efforts toward service in your marriage or other family members? Take this question to prayer and dialogue with God. You may be surprised at what surfaces.

But always, “Let us go forth to love and serve the Lord.”
 

(Richard Etienne has a degree in theology from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad and resides in Newburgh, Ind.)

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