Serving Ourselves

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August 28, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

August 28, 2016
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Fr. George Smiga

Today’s gospel may surprise us and perhaps perplex us. In the gospel it seems that Jesus is advocating an approach of self-service. He instructs his disciples to take the lowest place so that the host may come and ask them to move up higher. Thereby they will gain the esteem of their companions at table. So how can we connect this strategy to gain the admiration of others to the gospel? Is discipleship about growing in the esteem of other people? Does not Jesus call us to serve others rather than to serve ourselves?

Not entirely. The truth is that whenever we serve another person we also serve ourselves. Whenever we do good for someone else, it is a good from which we benefit. St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the great theologians of our church, taught that whenever we choose to do a good thing, we make that choice because our heart knows that it will be good for us. Even if the choice we make is difficult and involves the sacrifice of our time and comfort, doing that good thing is something from which we benefit.

People who give their lives to save the life of another person are certainly serving their neighbor, but they are also serving themselves. In that heroic action they know that they are doing something good and valuable, something that can rightly be admired by others. They understand that their sacrifice is not something that others soon will forget. Parents are always sacrificing for their children, but they are also sacrificing for themselves. The greatest satisfaction that a parent can experience is to see that their son or daughter has grown and is successful, and to understand that they contributed to the goodness of their child. People who work for justice in our world, fighting poverty or undermining structures that support violence or hate, are certainly doing good for others, but they are also doing good for themselves. At the end of the day they will know that their life was given for something of value, something that made a difference.

So the good thing that we do for someone else is also a good thing we do for us, and there is nothing wrong about seeking that good. Sometimes we imaging following Jesus as a way of negating ourselves or putting ourselves down. But true discipleship is for the benefit of disciple. It is a way to exalt the disciple because of the good things that he or she does. We are God’s daughters and sons and so it only makes sense that God would want us to be exalted, that God would want us to grow in our goodness and in our value.

When we serve another person, we serve ourselves. That is why Jesus in today’s gospel is not ashamed to ask his disciples to grow in the esteem of others because of the positive choices they make. We should not be ashamed of exalting ourselves for the good decisions we make, as long as we make those decisions for the right reason.

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