My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As I said, it is joy to be with you this morning. I am proud to share this special moment of grace as we honor these young men and women for their service, for their witness to Christ.
The Eucharist is always a time of thanksgiving — to give thanks to God for all his blessings and especially for the blessing of understanding that our Christian faith calls us to service.
I want to share with you that I was in Washington, D.C. past week to give a speech on immigration reform and to visit some members of Congress to talk to them about the issue of immigration.
And on my way from the airport, the driver that was taking me to town was a man from Pakistan. Good guy, a hardworking man. And we had a good conversation. I want to say that I took the red-eye so I didn’t know where I was, it was so early in the morning. But we had a good conversation.
And this gentleman said something that made me think. He said that his father used to tell him all the time: “Do good and life will be good.”
What a beautiful thought, isn’t it? Very simple. Do good and your life will be good.
I was thinking this morning — that this is really what these Christian Service Awards are all about. Doing good and making life good for other people. And when we do that we make our life good, too.
Because with these awards, we are celebrating the highest example of what it means to be a Christian. To follow Jesus, to be a Christian, is to be a servant. That is what Jesus is telling us in the Gospel that we just heard.
Let’s listen to his words again: “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
So Jesus is giving us today a whole program for living.
Jesus came to serve, as we know, and he gave his life serving others, serving us. In a way, he is the perfect example of the words he gives us in the Gospel today. He humbled himself, made himself a servant. So he gave us this beautiful example of a life — totally given in service to others.
And this is also what this Lenten season is all about. We follow the way of the Cross and the Cross shows us how much Jesus loves us.
So Jesus is calling all of us today — and every day — to follow his way of love, his way of service. It is the simple and beautiful duty that he gives to every one of us.
To love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.
But as we know, Christian love is not just emotions, or some kind of feeling that we have one day and then it goes away and then comes back. Love is more than words, it is more than just talking about things and having good intentions.
Love is an “action word.” And love in action is service. It means that we have to “do” something, not just talking, It’s real service.
So we hear about that in our first reading today, from the prophet Isaiah: “Learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow.”
That sounds similar to what that man from Pakistan was telling me — “Do good and life will be good.” It’s simple, isn’t it? But it’s challenging at the same time.
So today let us ask for that grace to understand that real love is service, service to those who are in need: the widow, the orphan, the most vulnerable. Those who are suffering from injustice. And that’s our Christian call — following Jesus Christ in his path of love and service.
That’s what we celebrate today — humble service to God and to our neighbor.
St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata, she used to say that it is easy to love people who are far away or to love people “in general.” It is easy to say, “I love all people.” But it is much harder to love the people who are close to us — the people in our families, at school, at work. It’s challenging.
It’s easy to talk about it, but in reality, to be patient and understanding and serve others is challenging.
We all know that is true.
But it’s beautiful when we are able to really transform our day into a day of service to one another. And we can do it in little ways. Thinking about others first before we think about our own needs. Not always trying to “win” or to be “right” or always trying to get our “way.”
When we think about God and think about others, our life is just beautiful.
So today we ask for the grace to love as Jesus teaches us to love. And we do this — not win an award. It is nice to be recognized, to be honored. But we love and we serve because that is what Jesus asks of us. We do this — because this is the way to find real happiness in this life, as we all know.
So today, let us ask for the grace to commit ourselves once again — to serve all the time, to make service the “hallway” of our lives.
Congratulations to all of our that are the winners of the service awards. And let us try to always follow the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
And let us ask Mary our Blessed Mother for her intercession — that we learn how to love and to serve. Let us ask her to help us — to do good so that our life will be good.
1. Readings (Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent, Year A): Isa. 1:10:16–20; Matt. 23:1–12.