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rst discussion Madonna’s fourth Franciscan Value is:  Education for Truth and Service. What does being educated for truth and service mean to you?  The co

rst discussion Madonna’s fourth Franciscan Value is:  Education for Truth and Service. What does being educated for truth and service mean to you? 

The co

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rst discussion Madonna’s fourth Franciscan Value is:  Education for Truth and Service. What does being educated for truth and service mean to you? 

The course materials provide food for thought about the meaning and importantce of service and about what the call to service, in the context of the Franciscan values, does – and does not – imply. In Module 14, we discussed implications of authentic service and identified possible distortions of service. We do not see such distortions in Jesus’ example: while going to the extent of death in service for the human beings so loved by God, he nevertheless is strong in standing up against those who would exploit and oppress. And note how MLK says that it is not seeking to EXCEL that is problematic: it is what we seek to excel IN.

Identify and discuss a point from the materials in these modules that you found especially significant. Then, reflect upon your own “call to service.” Have you thought of your personal life path as a call to service? How do you envision the connections between your life choices/professional choices and service? Note that you do not have to have a “career” or be in a “service profession” in order to be of service. Sometimes quite ordinary things can make a difference in the lives of others. In light of what you have explored in this course, reflect upon how your convictions about your chosen profession or course in life have changed, deepened, been enlarged, etc. What do you identify as your own distinctive gift to give others? What will you carry with you from this course into your own service of others? Religious Roots of Service

Interestingly, unlike with the value of justice or of reverence for creation, there is not a great deal in the Old Testament that APPEARS to directly relate to the value of SERVICE. Its importance is more implicit than explicit. There is one section of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (the section known as Second Isaiah, or Deutero-Isaiah) that contains four so-called “Servant Songs”: 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12. These passages are about the “Servant of the Lord,” a figure who seems to be specially chosen and designated by God to carry out a special God-given task or mission to the people. In the last of these four passages, the servant is seen to be a “Suffering Servant,” whose suffering is used by God for the salvation of others. Because of this, the earliest Christians applied these passages to Jesus. They were struggling to understand the meaning of what had happened to him, and found meaning in these texts from their Scriptures that described how the Servant carried out God’s will by giving himself in service for others – a description that seemed very apt when applied to Jesus.

There are a couple of places in the Gospels where Jesus speaks of service. In Matthew, chapter 20, the mother of James and John has come to Jesus and asked that her sons might sit in places of honor beside him in his kingdom; he has replied that this is not his to give. He goes on to say, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:25-28). (“Son of Man” is a phrase used by Jesus in the Gospels to refer to himself.) In the parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Lk. 22:27).

Jesus’ disciples seem to share a mistaken impression that his goal is to achieve a military victory for his homeland of Israel against their hated Roman overlords; they are looking forward to their own greatness through sharing in his resulting victory and glory. Jesus needs to correct their false ideals. In the Kingdom of God, greatness is not about wielding power over others (“lording it over them”). Rather, in GOD’S Kingdom, greatness is about SERVING others. This would have been a total inversion of values in Jesus’s – or any other – culture. It totally contradicts our usual, self-centered assumptions. But for Jesus, the ultimate “greatness” is serving others, even to the point of giving one’s life for them. Service is what he is all about, and it is what he expects from his followers.

Service is emphasized in a very dramatic way in the Gospel of John. At his last supper with his disciples on the night before he died, Jesus took a towel and a basin of water, and washed his disciples’ feet. After doing this, he said, “‘Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me “teacher” and “master,” and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do’” (Jn. 13:12-15).

The washing of someone’s feet upon their entering a house or at the beginning of a banquet was a way of honoring an important person and was a customary practice in the ancient Middle East (as it still is, in some parts of the world). But performing it was one of the duties of a wife for her husband or of a slave for his or her master. In other words, it was customarily performed by someone who was in a subordinate position for one who was a social superior. Jesus does something that is totally unheard of; in fact, it scandalizes his disciple, Peter, who is so upset that he tries at first to prevent Jesus from washing his feet. Jesus demonstrates – through actions that speak much louder than words – that in God’s Kingdom, no one is “superior” and no one is “inferior,” and that his followers are to go to the extreme extent possible in order to truly serve others.

In these stories, Jesus is explicitly subverting cultural assumptions about what constitutes human worth. The worth of the person is not dependent on social status: one in a socially “superior” position is not of more worth than a social “inferior.” Under God, ALL are called to serve others, and doing so is not a sign of inferiority, because all human beings are equal in dignity. Jesus explicitly shows that true greatness consists in serving others. Service is a form of personal excellence because it fulfills our call to imitate God in caring for one another. “We have a special obligation to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception and to actively assist them when we meet them in the path of our lives” (Gaudium et Spes, 27).

Service must be something that is freely given. When it is forced or demanded, it becomes a form of oppression. Unfortunately, Jesus’ words have sometimes been twisted to support the oppression of the vulnerable, by convincing them that “good” Christians submit and obey their “superiors” meekly. But this is not the model that Jesus himself presented. He did not allow people to jerk him around or treat him as a “doormat.” He was strong and courageous in confronting evil and standing up for what was right, even when it cost him his life. His actions model a mode of service to others that is a RESISTANCE against evil and against the exploitation of fellow human beings. He calls for serving others because he truly cares about PERSONS.

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