The following sermon was written by Father Michael Cassabon of Saint Patrick's Catholic Church and is published here with his permission.
In many ways, Jesus’ teaching is a paradox.
He says, if you want to have life, then you must die to yourself. He teaches, if you want to be the first, then you must become the last and servant of all. And in today’s Gospel, he teaches his disciples: if you wish to be exalted on high, then you must humble yourself.
These are paradoxes, but they are important for us to understand in our minds and hearts and to live out in our lives.
Jesus teaches in these paradoxes because it is a reflection of his own life: He is the Son of God who became one of us in all things but sin…he traded his throne of glory for the humiliation of the Cross because he loved us. For a time, Jesus leaves the realm of glory to share in our suffering, in our darkness, and in our loneliness so that he can assure us that we are not alone in our pain and grief. He humbles himself; he associates with the lowly and the outcast, so that those on the margins of life can be reminded that they are beloved by God and that nothing can separate them from divine love.
In the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it seems that God goes to the extremes in expressing his love for his People, as he humbles himself beyond belief to be with us.
It sounds crazy perhaps, but then again true and authentic love inspires us to do crazy things. Maybe it’s the same way for our God.
So when Jesus says to us, “love one another as I have loved you,” he does not mean that we ought just to have good feelings and kind words for one another. He means that we ought to imitate what God has done: to humble ourselves for the good of others not only in words, but in concrete actions. He means that we should not seek glory for ourselves, but to imitate the actions of Jesus, the God-Man, who washes the feet of his disciples in service. He means that, as Jesus died on the Cross for us, we should die to our selfishness and the lusts and greed of the flesh so that we can be free to live for God and for neighbor.
We don’t need to worry about our own glorification…God will exalt and glorify us in His own good time, just as God exalted Jesus in the glory of the Resurrection.
In other words, Jesus does not teach us to humble ourselves so that we become forever insignificant or forgotten. On the contrary, when we humble ourselves for the good of one another we imitate the divine action of Jesus, who humbled himself for a time so that he could be one with us, and so unite us with his glorious and divine life.
How is God calling us to humble ourselves today? Who is he calling us to serve in our families, or among our friends, or most especially, among those that we don’t like too much?
It’s really challenging sometimes to reach out to those when we know that they can’t repay us for whatever good we do to them.
However, the Gospel tells us that we are meant to serve especially those who will never be able to give anything to us in return. Why? Because it reminds us of our relationship with God.
How can you or I ever repay to the Lord what He has done for us? He has given us everything…life itself through creation, new and glorious life through salvation. What could we possibly do to pay the God of the universe back?
God doesn’t ask us to pay Him back…but He does ask us to go and do likewise with those around us. Amen.
And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.