Tested like us in every way, yet without sin (Heb 4, 15)
Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for all.
Peter already found shockingly unbelievable the notion of a suffering Messiah. The Twelve must be even more surprised now that it is made clear to them—so that, summoned by Jesus, they may be gathered together again after the Zebedee brothers’ divisive intervention—that the Messiah is the servant, slave, of all.
A Messiah who serves and surrenders does not match the people’s expectation of a Davidic king who, girded with strength for battle, destroys those who hate him, crushes them fine as dust to be blown away by the wind and treads them down like dirt in the streets (Ps 18, 40-43). Nor can the disciples and their contemporaries imagine such a Messiah; by experience, they only know leaders whose greatness is synonymous with tyranny, oppression, or not so disinterested collaboration and connection with the powerful.
But as pleasant a surprise as may be the newness that is being communicated to us who claim to be followers of Jesus, still being imbued with the refreshing spirit of this good news does not come easy for us. It is a breath of fresh air that, unfortunately, we exhale rather quickly in order to inhale the usual stagnant worldly air.
Do we not perhaps display worldly tendencies by succumbing to the common temptation to be gentle with the powerful and harsh with the powerless? Is it not a struggle for us still to implement service as the definition of Christian authority (cf. John L. McKenzie, Authority in the Church), conforming ourselves rather to secular models of governance? Are there not still ecclesiastics who think like that person who told St. Vincent de Paul that “to govern well and maintain your authority, you must make it clear that you are the Superior” (SV.FR XI:346).
And isn’t it difficult for us sometimes to imagine the apostles of old taking part in our high, solemn and pompous celebrations? For my personal taste, it is easier to catch a glimpse of Christ in the poor lining up to receive soup and bread.
Moreover, it is worthwhile to ask, I think, if we who celebrate the Eucharist do not pervert it as we swallow everything up for ourselves, apathetic toward those in need and we ask, at home with individualism, “What is in it for me?” or prescribe, “Everyone for himself.” The Eucharist proclaims, after all, that they are happy, “those who consume their lives for the service of our Lord, as he himself consumed his for the salvation of souls,” ready to go on mission throughout the world (SV.FR VII:131; XII:262).
Lord, grant us your Spirit of compassion and mercy (SV.FR XI:341).