As part of my Lenten journey, I’ve been delving deeper into the daily Mass readings. Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew states, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve . . .” Initially, I was thrilled. Finally, a spiritual practice I have mastered. I mean, I’m a mother. My life is service. Between cooking, cleaning, driving, teaching, supporting, and so on for my family 24/7, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the service thing covered, right?
However, as I examined and prayed with these words more closely, I began to notice something else. My service is often task-oriented. When I’m making dinner, I’m focused on dinner, not necessarily the people who will eat it. When I’m starting a load of laundry, I’m focused on laundry, again, not the next person to wear these clothes. St. Teresa of Calcutta famously said, “Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” In Scripture, Jesus also challenges Martha when her service becomes more focused on the task itself rather than the people in front of her, namely, Jesus. If the standard of real service is that it is people-oriented, then it looks like I still have more to learn.
As we seek to grow in imitation of Christ during this Lenten season, what practical steps how can we take to make others become the animating force of our service?
- Slow down. This is step one because, until we master our speed, nothing else can change. It is impossible to focus your service clearly on people that are a blur. I hear you when you feel the weight of all the things that need to be done, but our Lord reminds us to prioritize people over those things.
- Move beyond “getting it done.” A life of service is not a life of boxes checked off on a list. Organization is a positive good, but it’s still not the main focus of our service as mothers. In fact, organization needs to keep its place as a servant to our families.
- Keep the end in sight—literally. Remembering your ultimate goal is the hardest part. It’s easy to speed up, finish tasks, and then check the box. It’s much harder to intentionally offer the task as you perform it, to engage your will in the action of service for another. However, if you have lost sight of your child, spouse, etc., is it really even service anymore?
Let the One who came to serve, lead. If these ideas sound overwhelming, you may be assuming that you will rely on your own strength to make these changes. Ultimately, we will serve best when we allow him to serve in us.
Lent calls us all to change, to a deeper conversion. As we continue on the journey of these forty days, let us embrace our opportunities for change through the power of Christ working in us!
“For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work” (Ph 2:13).