the path to heaven

For many years, our two daughters firmly asserted that the reason, the only reason they were brought into this world was to toil tirelessly as slaves to their parents’ every command. How else, they would argue, could we explain our insistence – they would use harsher words such as demand, order, command, or dictate – that they learn how to prepare meals, clean dishes, vacuum and dust, do laundry and ironing, and all the myriad of chores that must be done in any home. Make no mistake, we were truly terrible tyrants who gave no quarter and demanded absolute perfection.

Not to make too fine a point of this, but we often find in the readings each week references to ‘slave’ and, given our modern understanding of the word, we undoubtedly hear it with a modern bias. The Greek word ‘doulos’ means ‘slave’ but it can also mean ‘servant’. And to our modern sensibilities, ‘servant’ carries with it a far more benign and acceptable connotation.

Jesus told his disciples and us that “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” [Mk 9-35]. The word used for ‘servant’ is ‘doulos’. In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul tells us “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, — slave, free; but Christ is all and in all [Col 3:11]. Here the word used for ‘slave’ is ‘doulos’.

Jesus again told his disciples that “…anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” [Mt 20:26-28]. In this statement you find ‘doulos’ used as both ‘slave’ and ‘servant’. So which is it? It is both, but then, not both. Jesus explains by adding “the Son of man came not to be served but to serve”. He calls us to service, but not as unwilling, bound slaves but rather as free servants who willingly and joyfully wish to serve others. God became man to serve, to bring joy and light to the world. No one forced Him to be the servant of all; He leapt at the opportunity to serve.

I recently heard someone say that any ministry of service should never be considered a chore or a thing one was required to do but rather a source of great joy. I couldn’t agree more. The overwhelming sense of joy that I receive whenever I serve in some small way is only tempered by a healthy dose of Catholic guilt; the truth is I feel guilty for being the recipient of so much joy.

Jesus came to serve and he calls us to do likewise. Here’s the simple truth. No one can buy their way into heaven; neither can anyone get there by sitting on the sidelines. The path to heaven is paved with the stones of love, laid humbly, one stone at a time, by those in the service of God. If you’re sitting back watching others build the road, maybe it’s time to stand up and start setting stones. You’ll be amazed at how much joy there is in doing so.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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