“The Lord Becomes a Servant, Lk 12” (8/11/2019)
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
The Lord Jesus says in our Gospel, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.” What a beautiful promise the Lord gives to his faithful servant. In heaven, the Lord himself, will gird himself as a servant and wait on his faithful ones. God is so loving and humble, that he will stoop down and serve his faithful ones in that heavenly Kingdom. The Lord becoming a servant!
It would be hard to believe, except that we have already seen our Lord do it. We’ve already seen the Lord do such a thing in the washing of his disciples’ feet on the evening of Holy Thursday. The Lord becomes a servant in love, and the roles are switched and the Lord becomes a servant.
St. John of the Cross, that very austere Spanish mystic from the 16th century marvels over this. Coming from him it’s all the more credible because he’s so austere and tough. Yet even he speaks of this tenderness of God in becoming our servant. John is not just trying to make us feel good—he cares little about that—rather he’s speaking the truth—the truth about God’s great love in coming to serve his faithful ones. He refers to the very verses from our Gospel that I’ve been speaking about. And here’s how St. John of the Cross describes the union with God we can look forward to in heaven, and maybe even before.
He says, “In this interior union, God communicates himself to the soul with such genuine love that neither the affection of a mother, with which she so tenderly caresses her child, nor a brother’s love, nor any friendship is comparable to it. The tenderness and truth of love by which the immense Father favors and exalts this humble and loving soul reaches such [an astounding] degree. O wonderful thing, worthy of our awe and admiration! God himself becomes subject to the soul for her exaltation, as though he were her servant and she his lord. And God is as solicitous in favoring her as he would be if he were her slave and she his master. So profound is the humility and sweetness of God!
“In this communication of love, God exercises in some way that very service that he says in the Gospel he will render to his elect in heaven; that is, girding himself and passing from one to another, he will minister to them [Lk 12:37]” (SC 27.1). So that’s the austere St John of the Cross speaking about our Gospel today.
However we’re not yet at the great Banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven. We are journeying there. We are on our way. We have to prove to be the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will honor. And this can be difficult at times. It’s like what we heard from the Letter to the Hebrews and how difficult the life of faith can be at times.
Hebrews says, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country…for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.”
Such people of faith, Hebrews says, “acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth…But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
We too are in this situation. Living out the Catholic faith in a world that’s often opposed to it, we too are like strangers and aliens on earth looking for a better homeland, a heavenly one. By fixing our eyes on the finish line, we spur ourselves on to finish the race strongly, in faith, hope, and love.
The American poet, Emily Dickinson would say, “Instead of getting to Heaven at last, I’m going, all along.” “Instead of getting to Heaven at last, I’m going, all along.” The joy of heaven can already begin to mark our journey through this life. When we fix our eyes on our destination, it also marks the journey. I remember taking family vacations as a young boy. We all would pile in the car for a long journey. It could have all been quite tedious and painful. But we remembered where we were going. Sea World or the Grand Canyon. And so the journey was filled with excitement and joy.
It’s the same with our journey to Heaven. “Instead of getting to Heaven at last, I’m going, all along.” It’s the basic message of Hebrews. When we fix our eyes on the goal, in faith, it effects the way we live in this life. It helps us live out our faith, to live godly lives now. It helps us fix our heart on God. For where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. It helps us be loving toward others. To work in building the Kingdom of God in righteous and peace. For these are the things that will last forever. Love of God. Love of neighbor. Justice, peace. Praise of God. Service of our Neighbor.
And as our Gospel told us. In that heavenly Kingdom, even the Lord himself will give himself in loving service. Yet this great Banquet in the Heavenly Kingdom, where the Lord himself serves, is anticipated every time we celebrate Mass. Doesn’t the Lord already come to us as a humble servant in the form of bread and wine?
He gives us his very self in the Eucharist, to strengthen us, nourish us, and comfort us. The Lord gives himself completely to us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Even now in the Eucharist, the Lord “girds himself, has us recline at table, and proceeds to wait on us.” Let us give ourselves to God in return: in love, service, and joy.