Tuesday, July 18, 2017

True humility in service, checking our ego.


At the time St. John the Baptist met Jesus he had, what we would consider in modern terms, a thriving ministry.  If you want to think on what that looks like, imagine the most successful minister, priest, lay evangelist, or the like, that you know.  Imagine what that life is for a moment.  They have the ministry, they have disciples who are learning from them, their position in life has both benefits and responsibilities.  In our modern time, we have clear examples of what this looks like and how it can affect both us who learn and them.  I think we can be frank and recognize that, in some cases, people in these positions become kind of ‘drunk’ with the success.  Being in the position of influence over people like that is spiritually dangerous.  You are accountable for what you are teaching, what you are putting people’s focus on, and the stewardship of what that ministry provides.  These key points can be soft spots in the armor of the ministry where spears of temptation might easily slip through.  This was St. John’s life, and not so different from those today who minister in Jesus’s name, be it in a lay position all the way up to the top of the Church. 

Whatever our position in the Church or specific ministry is, St. John the Baptist gives us the quintessential fix for every manner of temptation we might face as we discharge our duty.  No matter what we do in the Church or for God, there is always the temptation that we do it for our own glory.  Which means we may be doing the right thing, but for all the wrong reasons.  That is an insidious trap.  It isn’t as hard to overcome doing something overtly wrong in our lives.  When we are doing bad things for bad reasons it is way more obvious that we need to repent and change our ways.  When we are doing good things for bad (self-serving) reasons, well then, it can be a much stickier mess. 

When we are doing bad things, often people aren’t too shy about telling us.  When we are doing good things, people frequently don’t realize we are doing it for wrong reasons and they praise us for what they see is a fantastic thing, which enables and feeds the ego.  It isn’t apparent to us then, as it is when we are doing obviously wrong things, that we need to amend our spirit and redirect our actions so that God gets the glory and not us. 

St. John had the right spirit and leads us in this simple passage by his example.  He had a successful ministry.  His disciples looked to him for his words, wisdom, and leadership.  Can you imagine what it might have been like if St. John had tried to put himself equal with or over Jesus? The spiritual discord, the dissent between followers, it would have been horrible, not only for all the disciples involved but St. John himself. 

Failure breeds humility, but when we are successful, like St. John, we run the risk of pride and grandstanding in such a way that we become addicted to the adulation of those who admire us (rather than our ministry).  St. John’s example in this perfectly simple statement: HE must increase and I must decrease.   It is the example of how our hearts need to be everyday as we do the Lord’s work.  It is also an example of how we must see those who lead us.  Every day, and in every way, HE must increase and we must decrease.  We are to look for Him, and not they who serve.  Those who serve, no matter how great the service appears, are instruments in the hands of Almighty. 

If you are looking at me, you are seeing the wrong thing I will fail every time, look for He who is in me, He who I serve.  May this be the prayer of all who teach. May St. John be our example in all our service.

Just some food for thought and prayer…

Here I am, Lord, send me,

Lisa Brandel