Seeking Servanthood

First Reading: Acts 13:13-25

From Paphos, Paul and his companions
set sail and arrived at Perga in Pamphylia.
But John left them and returned to Jerusalem.
They continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia.
On the sabbath they entered into the synagogue and took their seats.
After the reading of the law and the prophets,
the synagogue officials sent word to them,
“My brothers, if one of you has a word of exhortation
for the people, please speak.”

So Paul got up, motioned with his hand, and said,
“Fellow children of Israel and you others who are God-fearing, listen.
The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors
and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt.
With uplifted arm he led them out,
and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert.
When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan,
he gave them their land as an inheritance
at the end of about four hundred and fifty years.
After these things he provided judges up to Samuel the prophet.
Then they asked for a king.
God gave them Saul, son of Kish,
a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
Then he removed him and raised up David as their king;
of him he testified,
I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;
he will carry out my every wish.
From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise,
has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
to all the people of Israel;
and as John was completing his course, he would say,
‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he.
Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’”

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 89:2-3, 21-22, 25 AND 27

R. (2) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
The favors of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
“I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
That my hand may be always with him,
and that my arm may make him strong.”
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
“My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him,
and through my name shall his horn be exalted.
He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’”
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Gospel: John 13:16-20

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.
I am not speaking of all of you.
I know those whom I have chosen.
But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.
From now on I am telling you before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send
receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”



Having a servant’s heart is not something that comes naturally to me. My default is to serve myself, and not others. I go anywhere from annoyed to irate when my plans are up-ended by someone else’s needs, or when I don’t get my “me time” each day, or when I’m not recognized the way I think I should be. Selfishness—I’m great at selfishness.

But aren’t servanthood and self-denial the very things my Lord asks of me?

“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mt 20:26).

And again, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23).

We see Him in the Gospel today, washing the feet of His disciples, getting on His hands and knees and doing a servant’s work. He gave endlessly of Himself to those around Him, even to the point of giving His life. So why do I think my life should be any different, that I should somehow be exempt from that?

“No slave is greater than his master, nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (Jn 13:16)

How well Saint John the Baptist understood that. When people were looking to him, thinking he might be the Savior they had been waiting for, generation upon generation, he could have taken that attention and turned it into glory for himself. But instead he denied himself and pointed to Jesus: “I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.” (Acts 13:25)

I like to think I am in control of my life, but when we realize that our lives are not our own, that we have been purchased by His Blood, and that everything we have is from Him, it becomes so much easier to let go of selfishness and pride, and to serve, even as He served. I think selfishness is rooted in fear—fear that we will not have, or be loved, or be important, or fear that another person’s good will somehow harm us. Do not be afraid to be selfless, for when He empties us of ourselves we can be filled with Him. When He breaks us we can be reformed in His likeness. When He makes us nothing to the world our works can mean something in eternity.

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Let us use the beautiful words of our Blessed Mother as our offering today. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)

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Anna Coyne is a wife, mother, musician, knitter, gardener, and convert to the Catholic faith.  Read more about her here.

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