Cheerful Servant

OA CornerI love this weekend’s readings. The themes in them have long been a big part of my life and character.

In the corner of my home office, I have a little set of reminders of the time I spent as a youth leader and as an adult volunteer in the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s National Honor Society, which focuses on developing servant leadership in scouting’s best.

In the corner, I have pictures of some of my favorite memories as an Arrowman and scout, with some of my best (and lifelong) friends and Brothers. I have the sash I wore when I served as a ceremonial character, helping to impart some of the Order’s message to new and upcoming members. I have the sash that all of the Arrowmen shared in wearing at the recent 100th Anniversary National Order of the Arrow Conference. There are ashes from my own Vigil fire when I was given the Order’s highest honor by my brothers (and given the Lenni-Lenape Indian name Lilchpin Lekhiket, which translates to Diligent Writer.) There are ashes from the Centennial Fire that burned at the 100th Anniversary NOAC.

There is a pair of #DareToDo sunglasses, reminding me of the OA National Chief’s challenge to do a good turn each day and spread the word about the good we do in the world.

And there is a medal that I was awarded back in 1992, when I was one of our lodge’s two annual recipients of the Founder’s Award (the other recipient that year was my long-time friend and adviser Jim Dedera, may he rest in the peace of Christ).

On the back of that medal are engraved words that embody the spirit of the Order’s founders and are embedded in the ceremonials and the life of the Order and its Arrowmen:

“For he who serves his fellows is, of all his fellows, greatest.”

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Sound familiar?

Those words are effectively a paraphrase of a verse from the heart of this Sunday’s Gospel:

“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” – Mark 9:35b

I was raised in the spirit of this passage, and I still love and hold onto these words whenever I’m up against challenges in service that I find hard to tackle. Christ himself gave us the example of how the servant is raised up by the Father. He taught that humble service through His own life and actions.

And it gets even better this weekend… In the midst of the second reading is a clip that I read to myself each morning before work as a reminder of how I’d like to spend myself in service each day:

“Fructus autem iustitiae in pace seminatur facientibus pacem.”

“A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” – James 3:18

As I embark on this new journey of discernment and discipleship, exploring and praying about whether this path toward the diaconate is where God wants me to be, it’s heartening to be strengthened by the words of the readings this weekend, carrying messages that have long meant so much to me.

That Gospel? The word used in the Greek actually is: διάκονος – diakonos – servant. That word, meaning waiter, servant, or administrator, and now a form of ordained ministry in service of the Church, appears some 29 times in various forms in the Bible.

This is the self-giving, loving, peaceful service that our Lord exemplified on the very night of the Last Supper, when he knelt to wash the feet of his disciples.

In peaceful, cheerful service, we can bring others to God through our own example and show them how to do the same. We can give to others what they need, sacrificing our own wants and needs for others’ good and the greater good. That idea was instilled in me at a young age and as I grew into manhood, and has played a key part in my entire life.

Harvest righteousness through peace… and serve others.

Am I always good at this? No! I fall short just like we all do. That’s why I surround myself with reminders of these phrases and challenges. And it’s why I’m excited whenever they come up in the readings for the Mass.

How can we serve this week? The lonely person who walks into the coffee shop looking for someone with whom to talk? The teammate who needs some praise and honest feedback on the work they’re doing on the tough project at the office? The person looking for a spare dollar – or one earned in honest work? The friend needing an extra hand? The child needing an extra hug? The coworker who has questions about the Holy Father’s visit to the Americas? The spouse needing a few more minutes of your time and attention? The Spirit sends us forth to serve these, and all the others we run across.

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