Made for More, Week 1: To Serve with Love
Today we begin our new message series we call Made for More. If you are baptized, you are made for more. When you were baptized you became a daughter or son of God, made to have a wonderful and full life. Baptized into Christ we are called to be people who help one another and serve one another out of love and for love. We say we are made for more because we don’t serve to gain some reward. We serve a higher purpose. We are made, as Christians, to serve with love.
Look at the love exhibited in today’s readings.
The First Reading from Isaiah concentrates on the messiah who does what he does out of love, the suffering, the sacrifice, the service of Jesus. Therefore, when Jesus calls on us to serve, whether it is serving him or those around us, is not something we should ignore. Jesus gives us the best he has to give, his very life. Should we not offer him the gift of our lives in return?
The responsorial psalm speaks to us of mercy. Mercy means love. Jesus offers mercy and love with this heart of service, wanting us to have love and mercy for others too, out of this sense of being of service to others.
Our second reading features this statement, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” The word sympathize, as used here, meant “to suffer along with.” Jesus is not just standing along the sidelines watching us as we play the game of life. He is in life with us. Jesus became human to share in our suffering, the same feelings, hurts, and trauma we experience. This reading also says “approach the throne of grace to receive mercy… and timely help. Jesus also tells us in the bible we are to give what we receive, so we are to give mercy and timely help to others.
In the gospel Jesus states he gives his life as a ransom. As his followers. Are we also to give our lives as a ransom? Let’s explore that.
In the Middle Ages thousands of Christians went on crusades to the Holy Land to liberate the area for Christians because it had been captured by the Ottoman Empire. These crusades went on for several centuries and failed in the end. There were vast numbers of casualties: thousands killed or injured in battle, tens of thousands — including a king of France — cut down by disease on the way, and thousands more — including a king of England — held captive for ransom. Whole religious orders of priests were started with the sole purpose of ransoming captives and liberating prisoners of war. Sometimes those priests would even offer themselves in exchange for the prisoners.
Was that just an isolated moment in history long ago and far away? We might think so, but the gospel disagrees. For, as we heard so clearly, Jesus defines his whole mission as ransoming captives. “I have come to give my life in ransom for the many.” In defining himself in that way, Jesus also defines our vocation as his followers. So we’d better figure out what this business of ransoming captives and rescuing prisoners is all about.
First of all, what it’s not about us dashing off to some distant country to negotiate with terrorists and trying to liberate people in that way. Our task is more subtle than that, and our opportunities are much closer at hand. Jesus is asking us to do for one another what he tries to do for us. He’s asking us to invest our very best energies in the task of setting one another free from whatever holds us captive.
To understand that vocation we have to look closely at the kinds of things that enslave people. Just think of the fears, and angers, and grudges that hold people captive. Think of the bad habits of a lifetime that are trapping so many. Think of the bad ideas that imprison so many.
And think of the compulsive need for things, the need for stuff, which holds so many of us hostage and forecloses the possibility of a happy life. We are made for more than that! Just call up in your mind’s eye the face of anyone you know, friend or foe, and you’ll see there, even in the very best of people, the hints of prison walls, the need to be set free.
How do we go about helping one another escape our prison walls? Tons of free advice will rarely do it — we should have already learned that! The most powerful, liberating gift we have to give is our steadfast, compassionate presence. Giving our steadfast, compassionate presence to others, means we will be living a life of service to others. Our service, that is, our strength, our goodness, and our willingness to continue walking at the side of our friend can, in time, become strength and goodness and freedom for our friend.
That is a wonderful gift we have to give: strength, goodness, and freedom. How sad it would be if we failed to give it. Jesus is asking us to do for one another what he tries to do for us out of love. Jesus is in the game of life right along with us. We too want to be in the game, not just on the sidelines as a spectator.
Service is not some drudgery we are forced to do. Being there for one another is something we are excited to do because it is an opportunity to love even more.
Remember you are made for more. We are made, as Christians, to serve with love. Jesus clearly states: I have come as a servant to give my life in ransom for the many. What about you?
To serve as a Christian is to serve with love.