“The true Christian’s verve comes from the will to serve…”
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
Fr. Euly Belizar, Jr.
I once listened to a politician delivering a campaign speech and referring to himself as “an iyo makalolooy nga surugoon” or, freely translated, “your humble servant”. Somehow it didn’t feel quite right because before his speech he kept on giving orders to his aides. Winnie Monsod once said in an interview how ironic it is to call politicians “public servants” when often it is the public that serves them. It is said that a “trapo” (traditional politician) cannot stand a true public servant like the late Jessie Robredo. We might compare the situation to oil that cannot mix with water.
The book of Wisdom tells us that, similarly, the wicked find the righteous man’s uprightness obnoxious. This alone fuels the wicked to conspire against the righteous and plan his ruin. They are particularly incensed by the righteous man’s two claims, namely, that, being the “son of God”, God “will defend the just one”; and that God “will deliver him from the hand of his foes”. As Christians, we see this image of a Righteous man-opposed-but-vindicated fully fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The written accounts regarding the bitter anger of his enemies that brought Jesus to death only reinforces this Old Testament imagery.
In the Gospel we find Jesus again affirming Wisdom. Compared to the scheming Pharisees, Jesus is seemingly passive. He accepts and presents his way as the way of the Cross. “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men who will put him to death.” But this gloom leads to the light of vindication: “three days after his death he will rise”.
The Cross is not our final resolution nor our destiny, so the Gospel implies. But it is the correct path to victory. No wonder Jesus tells us that to share in his vindication we must take up his way of the cross as ours. How? By true and genuine service. “If anyone wishes to rank first, he must remain the last one of all and the servant of all.” A Filipino bishop once recounted having an audience with then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. He noticed there were not enough chairs in the Cardinal’s office. To his surprise he saw the cardinal excusing himself and later coming back bringing two chairs for his guests. The Filipino bishop was disarmed by such humble gesture. When Cardinal Ratzinger later became Pope Benedict XVI, this Filipino bishop was among those who thought that the new pontiff embodied “Servus Servorum Dei (Servant of the Servants of God)”, the title popes choose to call themselves.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux once pointed out to Pope Eugene III: “A burden of service is our lot, not the privilege of power.”