August 26, 2023
Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
“The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11–12
If you were to plan out the ideal future for yourself, what would it look like? Imagine if you were not constrained by budget or resources. Imagine if you could pick to do anything you wanted, to go anywhere you wanted, and enjoy any activity that you wanted. Imagine the greatest experience you could possibly have. What would that be? Most people would immediately think about indulging in the greatest pleasures imaginable. A life of the most luxurious accommodations, the best food, the most beautiful scenery and the most relaxing and enjoyable time possible. But would that truly be the “ideal future for yourself?”
The Gospel passage above is very clear. Greatness is found in servanthood. Exaltation is enjoyed only through humility. Is the ideal lifestyle one that is filled with indulgence, entertainment, luxury, and the like? Certainly not. The ideal life, the greatest life, the most exalted life is the life of the most humble service of others as possible. That’s essentially what Jesus tells us in this passage. Do you believe that?
Note that Jesus uses the words “greatest” and “must” in the same sentence. These two words are both quite definitive. There is no one greater than the “greatest,” and the path to that greatness requires, without exception, that the greatest be a servant of everyone else. In many ways, this truth defies most human conceptions of greatness. Most often, if someone is considered “great,” then they are served and treated with an honor and respect not given to most. For example, if you had someone of great importance over to your home for dinner, you would most likely wait on them. Of course, service in this context is much more than waiting on tables or providing a meal. Though that is a blessed way to serve others and to express love, Jesus’ concept of service goes far beyond this. How do we serve as one who is truly great? We do so especially by humbling ourselves. Humility is the greatest form of service we can render another.
Jesus was, without question, the humblest person to ever live. Only His mother shared perfectly in this holy virtue. Humility enables a person to break out of every selfish tendency and turn their love to the good of the other. Jesus did this first by becoming Incarnate in the womb of His dear mother. The Eternal Son of God did not become man because it somehow benefited Him in a self-centered way. He did it because He loved us and His Incarnation benefited us. The Son of God did not allow others to mock Him, ridicule Him and ultimately murder Him because it somehow benefitted Him. He did it so that He could enter death and destroy it so that we could rise with Him. He did it for us. And we could go through every passage of the Gospels and see that everything Jesus did was done for others and never done out of a selfish desire. This self-giving service our Lord offered every day was a fruit of the incredible humility that He lived. Jesus did everything He did out of His love for others and with humility so as to bring salvation and transformation to their eternal souls.
In our lives, we need to make a fundamental choice. Am I going to live for myself? Or am I going to live for others? It seems as though very few people live fully for others. It is difficult to take our eyes off ourselves and turn them only to the good of others. But if we realize that living for others is also the path to our own greatness and ultimate exaltation, then it becomes much easier. Serving others, especially in a spiritual way by which you do all you can to help them grow closer to God, is what will make you great. Nothing else can do so. Believe that and live it.
Reflect, today, upon a life of true greatness. Reflect, especially, upon how you can live such a life. How can you more completely serve others? How can you make their holiness your primary goal? How can you help others grow in their love of God? Humble yourself and turn your eyes from yourself to others. Doing so will make an eternal difference for others and also for yourself.
My exalted Lord, You are exalted far above all others. You are Greatness Itself. The life You lived, dear Lord, was one of the greatest humility. But it was in this humility that You accomplished the salvation of the world. Help me to imitate Your greatness by making the service of others my most central mission in life. I love you, my Lord. May I love and serve others with You. Jesus, I trust in You.