Staying Power: Service
This is the fifth week of our current homily series: Staying Power. This is a series about how to grow in your faith as a follower of Jesus Christ, and to keep growing in your faith. This series is all about spiritual growth.
So far we’ve talked about prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God that takes practice.
We looked at sharing our faith with people who do not have a relationship with Christ.
Last week we looked at what we called the most helpful of the commitments, we talked about engaging in small groups through joining a 3 Conversations group. Our faith is personal but it is not private. We grow in faith relationally, so we need friends in faith.
By the way, if you’ve missed any or all of the past messages of this series, they’re available online. Just go to our website, saintmary.life and click on homilies.
Today we are looking at what is perhaps the most useful of all the steps, service. To serve means to be of use to God by being useful to others. To love God and love others by putting love into action. We can serve others in many ways. Traditionally the Church has taught about the Corporal Works of Mercy and The Spiritual Works of Mercy.
The Corporal Works of Mercy are found throughout the ministry of Jesus, and provide a guide on how we should care for one another, especially when it comes to physical needs: feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, and caring for the sick. Catholic Charities is our primary ministry for service to the hungry and those in need. Before the pandemic our Care ministry was active in providing Holy Communion, care and comfort for the sick and homebound.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy are also found throughout the teaching of Jesus, they provide a guide to how we should be treating one another, especially when it comes to spiritual needs, comforting the sorrowful, instructing the unschooled, counseling the doubtful or confused. Our Funeral and Grief ministry comforts the sorrowful. Our children’s ministry Explorers provides instruction to the next generation. Our “3 Conversations” Small Groups offer encouragement and support for members in the midst of life’s challenges.
All our ministries correspond to the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and reflect how Jesus taught us to treat one another. In order to grow spiritually, and become more like Christ, we’ve got to act like Christ, and Christ told us plainly, “For the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve.” Matthew 20.28
For Jesus, serving wasn’t just a good idea, it was the whole idea, the whole idea of his life. So where can I serve? Where can you serve? Anywhere. Everywhere. You can serve at home. You can serve at school. You can serve at work. You can serve on the soccer field and on the basketball court. There are opportunities all around us to put love into action and to be of some definite use to others. And we should look to serve so that serving others doesn’t become something we just check off the box, but becomes part of our character, a lifestyle choice just as it was for Jesus. It is through being helpful that we may earn an opportunity with who we are serving to share Jesus.
And the best reason of all to serve: It turns out there’s a rewards program for serving. Jesus promised rewards for serving. At the Last Supper, he washed the disciples feet. It was a dirty job that no one would want to do, a job for slaves. Afterwards he said, “If I, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. And blessed will you be if you do it.” John 13.17 Service brings blessing and rewards.
Service brings blessings and rewards, short term, and long term. Jesus told a story to help us understand that. The kingdom of heaven will be like ten maidens who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. Matthew 25.1-2 At that time, in that culture, bridesmaids played a different role than they do today. They often formed a welcoming committee for the groom as he arrived at the house of the bride for the wedding.
Jesus says that five of the bridesmaids were wise and five were foolish. Why? The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, the wise ones did. Jesus continues, “Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, “Behold the bridegroom!” The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps have gone out.” But the wise ones replied, “No, for there may not be enough for us and you.” Matthew 25.5-9
So, after a delay, the groom finally arrives… (in our culture it’s the bride who is late). Because of the delay the lamps of the foolish ones have gone out. The wise ones are not being selfish…what they have is simply not transferable. As the parable continues we learn while the foolish ones went off to buy it the bridegroom, who is Jesus, returned and welcomed those who were ready into the feast. When the foolish ones returned, it was too late, the door had already been shut. Matthew 25.10-12.
The foolish ones didn’t get to enjoy the celebration, they missed out on the rewards. The kingdom of God, as described by Jesus over and over again, is a feast, a party, a celebration, filled with rewards, so full of rewards, it’s worth organizing our lives around. And this is why Jesus concludes, “Therefore, stay vigilant”. Matthew 25.13.
Stay vigilant when it comes to your spiritual health. The parable is an allegory, in which the details correspond to spiritual truths. The bridegroom, of course, is the Lord. We’re like the women in the story. Our lamps…are our service. Acts of service that are rewarded. Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus compares good deeds and acts of service as light that shines before others. “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works”. Matthew 5.16.
The parable urges us to persevere in good works, to have staying power when it comes to serving. You can serve anywhere. But that’s an elusive goal to pursue without taking specific steps. It might be like saying, “I want to get in better shape.” Well, that’s a great thing to strive for, but unless we make a plan, it’s probably not going to happen.
You are part of the body of Christ and in a healthy body every part does their part, every part of the body performs some function, some help to the rest of the body. We are all called to get up off the couch and serve in one way or another.
It’s actually spiritually unhealthy not to serve. Did you ever meet a lifelong Christian or “never miss a Sunday Catholics” and they’re grumpy and mean spirited, their lives are anything but transformed by Christ. How does that happen? Where’s the disconnect?
They’re consumers, all they do is consume. All they do is come to church, receive communion, and go home. Consumption without contribution is unhealthy. Eventually it will make you sick…spiritually speaking.
Service helps you move from being a consumer to becoming a contributor. And service in the parish can help you to feel more connected to the work of the parish, to grow as an owner, not just an observer. Your whole relationship to the parish and your fellow parishioners changes completely when you get up out of the pew and start serving.
We have opportunities for service right now here at Saint Mary. We need help with our hospitality ministry, we need you to help us greet and seat our parishioners and visitors. We need you to help take up the collection during Mass. We need you in our Audio Visual control room, managing the screens for our slides and livestream and finally, we need you to assist us in our parish office, welcoming visitors and assisting with answering the phone. Consider if any of these positions is something you can do. Are you friendly and welcoming, are you tech savvy, are you comfortable answering phones and helping visitors to feel welcome? If so, we need you!
If you are ready, sign up today! You can see one of our staff members as you leave Mass. They are ready to help you sign up today! At the end of the day, at the end of our lives, all we’ll have is what we’ve given away. That’s why we serve.