A few years ago, when we were renovating our main Chapel at the Motherhouse, we planned to set up a temporary chapel large enough to seat our community of 30+ Sisters for daily Mass and prayer. Once we selected a suitable room, we moved in a temporary altar, a tabernacle, lectern and everything else needed for a fitting celebration of the Divine Liturgy. We had a simple procession with the Blessed Sacrament from the Chapel to the new, temporary Home for Jesus, and soon felt very comfortable in our makeshift ‘House of Prayer.’ About two weeks after we moved, I was praying alone before the Blessed Sacrament, thanking Jesus for His presence among us, when I suddenly realized that I had never asked Him about the move. It never occurred to me to ask Him where He might like to have His temporary Home. As I was asking His forgiveness for being so presumptuous, I came to understand that Jesus is completely at our disposal. No matter where we take Him or build Him a church or erect a chapel, He deigns to make His Home there. I recall a priest, who came to give us a retreat, asking us, “Sisters, what do you do with Jesus when I give Him to you in Holy Communion each morning?” It was a rhetorical question that reminded us that Jesus is, as we say, always at our mercy. Our humble Lord and God….
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about this very kind of humility. He tells us, The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:12). Jesus could say this, because He Himself chose to be humbled. We read in Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:6-8), Though He was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that He humbled Himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross.
How do we empty ourselves? By never looking down on anyone [unless it’s to raise them up]; by thinking of others before ourselves–a simple as leaving the larger piece of chocolate cake for the next person in line; by defending the one everyone else is criticizing; by choosing to do the dishes in the kitchen (where no one will see you) instead of serving the guests at table (while hobnobbing with the elite at the party). We empty ourselves when we give up or sacrifice or give away what is most precious to us, in order to build up the little, the lost, the least. We are like our humble Jesus when we choose to be last rather than first. It’s what today’s Gospel offers us: to be the servant, when everything in us wants to be the greatest. It’s counter intuitive, I know, but it’s the descending way that Jesus chose for Himself. And He offers it to us. Really, it’s a matter of Love.
God bless you and all those you love.