For the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve

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During the American Revolution, a man dressed in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, “Sir, I am a corporal!” The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. When the job was done, he turned to the corporal and said, “Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again.” With that, George Washington got back on his horse and rode off.

Where did Washington learn such leadership skills? I have no doubt he learned them from these words of Jesus, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” The young corporal had these words modeled to him from the man at the top. The disciples, likewise, received from their leader a picture of servant hood. In living the life of a servant, Jesus challenges his disciples then and now to address their misunderstandings about success in the world. In Mark 10:35-45, Jesus redirects our desire for greatness with a lesson on humble service. Society teaches us that looking out for number one and putting ourselves first is the sure path to success. But, Jesus explains again and again that “any disciple who wanted to achieve greatness in Jesus’ kingdom would have to follow Jesus’ example and take on the role of servant.” History continues to teach us this with many examples.

In the midst of the German occupation of Poland during World War II, thousands of priests and nuns were executed or deported to concentration camps in Germany. The plan of the Third Reich was to decapitate the church and render it harmless. But, the few remaining leaders of the church continued their ministry in a clandestine manner. With the help of several brave young men, willing to risk their own lives, they were able to continue teaching religious education to the young people, which was strictly forbidden by the Gestapo. Hitler’s greatest fear was that the youth would rise in a violent resistance movement. The young men who risked their lives formed a group called the “Living Rosary” and among the first group of volunteers was Karol Wojtyla who went on to become Pope John Paul II. Young Wojtyla saw many examples of living the life of a servant during one of history’s most brutal periods.

As disciples of Christ, we too can help transform the world around us by giving the best of ourselves in the service of others without expecting to be rewarded or applauded. Our loving Savior did everything for God’s Kingdom and for others. Let us imitate him.

Sylvia Bates