… In the Bible, service is always linked to a specific call that comes from God. For this reason, it represents the greatest fulfilment of the dignity of the creature, as well as that which invokes the creature’s mysterious, transcendent dimension. This was the case in the life of Jesus, too, the faithful Servant who was called to carry out the universal work of redemption.
“Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter …” (Is 53:7).
In Sacred Scripture, there is a strong and clear link between service and redemption, as well as between service and suffering, between Servant and Lamb of God. The Messiah is the Suffering Servant who takes on his shoulders the weight of human sin. He is the lamb “led to the slaughter” (Is 53:7) to pay the price of the sins committed by humanity, and thus render to the same humanity the service that it needs most. The Servant is the Lamb who “was oppressed, and was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth” (Is 53:7), thus showing an extraordinary power: the power not to react to evil with evil, but to respond to evil with good.
It is the gentle force of the servant, who finds his strength in God and who, therefore, is made by God to be “light of the nations” and worker of salvation (Is 49:5-6). In a mysterious manner, the vocation to service is invariably a vocation to take part in a most personal way in the ministry of salvation—a partaking that will, among other things, be costly and painful.
“… even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20:28).
In truth, Jesus is the perfect model of the “servant” of whom Scripture speaks. He is the one who radically emptied himself to take on “the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7) and to dedicate himself totally to the things of the Father (cf. Lk 2:49), as the beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased (cf. Mt 17:5). Jesus did not come to be served, “but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). He washed the feet of his disciples and obeyed the plan of the Father even unto death, death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:8). Therefore, the Father himself has exalted him, giving him a new name and making him Lord of heaven and of earth (cf. Phil 2:9-11).
How can one not read in the story of the “servant Jesus” the story of every vocation: the story that the Creator has planned for every human being, the story that inevitably passes through the call to serve and culminates in the discovery of the new name, designed by God for each individual? In these “names”, people can grasp their own identity, directing themselves to that self-fulfilment which makes them free and happy. In particular, how can one not read in the parable of the Son, Servant and Lord, the vocational story of the person who is called by Jesus to follow him more closely: that is, to be a servant in the priestly ministry or in religious consecration? In fact, the priestly vocation or the religious vocation are always, by their very nature, vocations to the generous service of God and of neighbour.
Service thus becomes both the path and the valuable means for arriving at a better understanding of one’s own vocation. Diakonia is a true vocational pastoral journey (cf. New Vocations for a New Europe, 27c).
“Where I am, there shall my servant be also” (Jn 12:26).
Jesus, Servant and Lord, is also the one who calls. He calls us to be like him, because only in service do human beings discover their own dignity and the dignity of others. He calls to serve as he has served. When interpersonal relationships are inspired to reciprocal service, a new world is created and, in it, an authentic vocational culture is developed.
…service is a completely natural vocation, because human beings are by nature servants, not being masters of their own lives and being, in their turn, in need of the service of others. Service shows that we are free from the intrusiveness of our ego. It shows that we have a responsibility to other people. And service is possible for everyone, through gestures that seem small, but which are, in reality, great if they are animated by a sincere love. True servants are humble and know how to be “useless” (cf. Lk 17:10). They do not seek egoistic benefits, but expend themselves for others, experiencing in the gift of themselves the joy of working for free…
“If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).
… The call of the Lord Jesus still resounds today: “If any one serves me, he must follow me” (Jn 12:26). Do not be afraid to accept this call. You will surely encounter difficulties and sacrifices, but you will be happy to serve, you will be witnesses of that joy that the world cannot give. You will be living flames of an infinite and eternal love. You will know the spiritual riches of the priesthood, divine gift and mystery.
As at other times, on this occasion, too, we turn our gaze to Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of the new evangelisation. Let us call upon her with trust, so that in the Church there will be no lack of men and women who are ready to respond generously to the invitation of the Lord, who calls to a more direct service of the Gospel:
“Mary, humble servant of God Most High,
the Son to whom you gave birth has made you the servant of humanity.
Your life was a humble and generous service.
You were servant of the Word when the angel
announced to you the divine plan of salvation.
You were servant of the Son, giving him life
and remaining open to his mystery.
You were servant of Redemption,
standing courageously at the foot of the Cross,
close to the Suffering Servant and Lamb,
who was sacrificing himself for love of us.
You were servant of the Church on the day of Pentecost
and with your intercession you continue to generate her in every believer,
even in these our difficult and troubled times.
Let the young people of the third millennium look
to you, young daughter of Israel,
who have known the agitation of a young heart
when faced with the plan of the Eternal God.
Make them able to accept the invitation of your Son
to give their lives wholly for the glory of God.
Make them understand that to serve God satisfies the heart,
and that only in the service of God and of his kingdom
do we realise ourselves in accordance with the divine plan,
and life becomes a hymn of glory to the Most Holy Trinity.