Tag Archives: Philippians

Called to serve

A few days ago Padre German asked me what reading from the New Testament I would like for today’s Mass. He will be installed as pastor of the Dulce Nombre de María parish and I will be accepted as a candidate for the diaconate.

The one he had thought of was 1 Timothy 3: 8-11 which lists the requisites for the deacon: “deacons must be dignified, not deceitful, not addicted to drink, not greedy for sordid gain, holding fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.”

It’s a good passage – and a good guide for an examination of conscience for a potential deacon. But I asked Padre German to use another reading.

First of all, if that reading were used some might think that was being ordained a deacon at this Mass. That is about a year down the road – God willing.

I prefer Philippians 2: 5-11, Paul’s hymn to the self-emptying Christ.

For me, the self-emptying of Christ and his becoming a slave are central to my understanding of what it would mean for me to be a deacon.

The deacon is, as I see him, the person in the shadows, looking at the needs of others and bringing them to the People of God.

The deacon is the one who empties self of all that keeps one self-centered and self-contained. The deacon allows one’s self to be emptied so that God and God’s people might find a place there.

As I write these words I recall the event that moved me to come here to Honduras, to “serve those most in need.”

During a service trip to New Orleans with one resident and fourteen students parishioners from St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, we emptied out the house of an African-American grandmother as she stood by.

As we emptied out that house, something was emptied out of me so that I could open myself to a new calling – serving God and the People of God, especially the poor, in Honduras.

And so today I ask God to give me the grace to be emptied of all that keeps me from being open and available for God and God’s people.

Choosing the self-emptying God

He emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness.
Philippians 2: 7

For many years the hymn in the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians has moved me to reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation.

We have a God who does not cling to an exalted notion of being God. Jesus empties himself, becoming human. He comes as a human in a poor country, occupied by the Roman Empire, and is born in poverty.

It is, I think, fitting that this is the first reading in the Catholic lectionary today, Election Day in the United States.

Who is the God that will influence our choices – both personal and as a nation? Our choices may reflect our image of God.

Will we choose a God who is poor and sides with them? Or do we want a god who gives us material riches?

Will we choose a God who is humble? Or do we want a god who lords it over all the nations: “we’re number one”?

Will we choose a God who is full of love and who seeks the Truth? Or do we want a god according to our own image, distorting the truth?

Will we choose a God who is self-emptying, out of love? Or do we want a god who exalts himself over others, using power to coerce other nations and peoples?

I know that all our electoral choices are contingent and no candidate is adequate. No candidate will bring in the Reign of God – that’s God’s work, with our cooperation.

But how we choose our elected officials reflects which God we worship.

I pray the US chooses remembering Jesus, the self-emptying God who loves everyone, especially the poor.

As Psalm 22: 25 says:

He has never despised
nor scorned the poverty of the poor.
From them he has not hidden his face.
but he heard the poor when they cried.

If that’s what God does, shouldn’t we do the same.