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Servant of the servants

Throughout his life time on earth, Jesus put himself forward as a living example of service of neighbour. In our liturgy today, we listen to the second of the three prophecies of his death that St. Mark includes in his gospel.

“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all,” he told his embarrassed disciples, who had been arguing and squabbling about which one among them should be the first in the pecking order.

Jesus took a child in his arms and said, “Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me, welcomes not me, but the one who sent me.”

Jesus interprets his own death as an act of service, an act for others, which he puts forward as the true measure of greatness, as the greatest of the disciples are those who serve others in total, self-giving love.

This is a theme that we see picked up in the Second Vatican Council in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes).

It expresses a great concern over the pastoral care and service in our Church, and zeroes in on the manner in which Christians promote a healthy society and also a healthy Christian community.

The council identifies five key areas where people can reach their full dignity, or become the people that their creator wants them to be.

It names the vocation of marriage and family, as well as culture, economics, politics and working in solidarity with others.

The document says that marriage and family is a state of holiness and as such, an especially powerful sign of the self-giving love and communion of God.

It says of marriage, “Such love, bringing together the human and the divine, leads the spouses to a free and mutual self-giving, experienced in tenderness and action, and permeating their entire lives.”

The council also calls marriage a duty carried out on behalf of all people, as it is a school of human enrichment and “a place where different generations come together to help one another to grow in wisdom.”

It speaks of the importance of cherishing both the joys and the sacrifices of married and family life as a witness to the love of God in the world, which has an impact on almost every sphere of human activity.

It then points to the areas of culture and social life that have changed and advanced in our world and speaks of the developments in science, art and the political sphere that have contributed to the creation of a more humane society.

On the other hand, it also warns of the danger of rapid social change, as it can undermine unity and the very dignity of people. It calls for a delicate balancing act from people in all walks of life.

The council stresses the important role the Church plays as a promoter of justice and peace on the international stage by strengthening communion among people of different backgrounds and charges Christians to be a witness to the fundamental dynamic that can affect this, humble service to all.