Who Are You Serving?
In his song “Gotta Serve Somebody,” Bob Dylan wrote: “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” It won Dylan a Grammy, and as the song goes on the point is that you may be many things; a rock and roll star; a doctor; a police chief; a businessman; an ambassador; a gambler; or very powerful in the eyes of the world. But no matter what we do, we serve somebody.
So, who do we serve?
In the Gospel this week, John the Baptist is pretty clear about whom he serves. He is there as the precursor, the one paving the way for the Lord, but says he is not worthy to loosen the sandal straps of the one following him. In Isaiah, we have again the images of the future, when the King will arrive who will usher in peace, when enmity and violence will be ended. This kingdom will be so great we are told that even the gentiles shall “seek it out” and it will be a sign for all the world to marvel at. John is welcoming people to this Kingdom, and it is something we continue to do as a Church, whose mission is the same as that of John, namely salvation of souls. Helping John, the Church and all of us is the Holy Spirit, who we are told in the first reading is a “spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and of piety..” These gifts of the Spirit are given to us; each being given some unique gifts, but all of us being given the virtues of faith, hope and love through the power of the Spirit who also strengthens us in the virtues of justice, temperance, fortitude and prudence.
What we see in these readings are both the hope for the future, but a challenge, too. We are invited to the Kingdom, but if a person is welcomed to the kingdom, they must first turn away from sin. They must have a change of heart, putting aside wickedness in order to prepare a way for the Lord. Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and the fire; something we call to mind especially on the day of our Conformation.
Archbishop Harry Flynn who celebrated both my confirmation and ordination was fond of saying “this is not just a photo op.” His point was that at the sacraments celebrated, we had to think carefully about our commitment to the faith. It’s something we grow in, and Advent gives us a great time to think about how we are serving our God. For, we all have to serve somebody, and Dylan is right, it comes down to God or the devil.
A person may not think they serve the devil, but such is the cunningness of the Evil One. It is so easy for a person to put God out of their lives or think they don’t need Him; or to become enslaved to sin. Sin can become addictive, and it’s easy to be blind to it. Tomorrow night is our parish penance service, and even if you can’t make it tomorrow, Advent, as I said last week in the homily, is a great time to celebrate reconciliation as a way to deepen our relationship with God and be reminded of His love, and to help ourselves see God’s love at a deeper level. It’s also a great time to be introspective and look at the decisions we’ve made and how we lead our lives. I give out an examination of conscience at each penance service, but some things to think about in reflection are the false gods in your life. Are you addicted to things you shouldn’t look at on the computer? Are you addicted to being in control of others or power? Are you enslaved to pride to the point where you aren’t open to others advice who care about you enough to tell you not what you want to hear but what you need to hear? Do you serve others in your family? Is anger taking over your life? How about greed? The list of things we ask ourselves is long, but this isn’t to make us feel guilty. Rather, it opens up our eyes to the things we need to change, because each sin is a tool of the devil, and a way we can end up serving him without being aware of it.
Thankfully, God has a solution. Obviously on the first Christmas God came to us, but also through the ministry of the Son and through the sending of the Spirit. And also in the confessional, and on the altar where we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass, but also through our own encounters with Him. But as I’ve said many times, His love is one that is never forced. He never forces us to serve Him, but He also, unlike the devil, never deceives us. He will always help us find the way to heaven; it’s up to us just to make sure we are on the right road. As Mr. Dylan might say, the answer to where to go is blowing in the wind – in the wind of the Holy Spirit, who calls us to repentance and faith in Christ. What a gift we are given by God, who Saint Paul says in the second reading offers salvation to all, so that all might glorify God for his mercy. Hopefully our lives are doing just that as we serve the King of Kings, and strive to use the power of His love and the Spirit to travel the road to sainthood rather than the road to perdition. May our eyes be open so we see where we are going!
Have a blessed week,
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