On our humble service to God

“If Jesus, the Son of God, was hated and killed, what excuses do we have, mere human beings, from not also being mocked, attacked, belittled, and put on the cross while we serve our church?”

I HAVE a friend who became involved in parish leadership. One day she called me to complain about the conflicts and the difficulties she was experiencing in her church — all the gossiping, the fights, the competitions, and the power struggles among the leaders.

She said that sometimes she felt like giving up and staying away from church activities.
“Well, I’m sorry to tell you, that’s what we get for taking leadership,” I told her.  “We get crucified”

“I warned you already about it before you took part in ministry,” I reminded her. “If Jesus, the Son of God, was hated and killed, what excuses do we have, mere human beings, from not also being mocked, attacked, belittled, and put on the cross while we serve our church?”

“But I didn’t expect these behaviors from church people,” she responded. “I thought everyone in the church [is] loving, caring, respectful, and forgiving.” “Yeah, you’re right, “ I said. “A church is a human institution too—broken, bruised, and sinful.”

“What should I do now, Father,” she asked. “Keep going, keep leading, keep caring. Be humble and kind. And keep your service to God and his people grounded in prayer,” I answered.

Suffering will always be a part of a disciple of Christ,” I added. “Besides, any parish or Christian community that is called to be holy is also the right place where God challenges us to put on our best Christian behaviors, to apply the Gospel to life. If we’re weak to take these challenges, then we’d easily shy away from taking part in it.”

My friend listened to me attentively. Deep inside me, I knew that she would carry on in her service to the church. She’s a good woman.

The Gospel this Sunday is about discipleship. But not discipleship as a prestigious position in which one becomes the center of the universe. It’s about becoming a suffering servant and the least of all. It’s about being a humble leader that shows authentic holiness.

The Gospel tells us that James and John, like some parishioners seeking the attention and influence of their pastor, wanted to be sure that they have a place in the Kingdom of God.

“Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left,” they urged Jesus. With this request, Jesus responded, “ You do not know what you are asking.

Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

Jesus was telling them that they must be ready to suffer and die to their egos if they wish to a place in his reign. If they want to be first among others, then they must be willing to be the least of all!

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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