July 25, 2018
by Eileen Wirth
Creighton University's Department of Journalism, Media and Computing
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of Saint James, Apostle
Lectionary: 605

2 Cor 4:7-15
Psalm 126:1bc-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6
Matthew 20:20-28

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Praying As We Age

“Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.” - Matthew 20

During his years as president of Creighton, Fr. John Schlegel S.J. raised millions of dollars to transform the campus with new buildings and programs. He is remembered as one of Creighton’s most significant leaders.

However, when I reflected on what Jesus teaches us in today’s gospel: “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant,“ I thought about Fr. Schlegel because of his dedication to helping Omaha’s homeless people.

He frequently served dinner to the homeless guests of Francis-Siena House near campus. If this was publicized during his life, I don’t recall it. However, when he brought Project Homeless Connect to campus, Creighton strongly promoted it. During this annual event, more than a thousand homeless persons come to campus for health screenings and other services provided by hundreds of Creighton students, faculty and staff.

Fr. Schlegel was not only a “servant/server” at Francis-Siena House but a “servant leader” who used his power as president to dedicate Creighton’s resources to helping homeless people and to encourage others to get involved. He thus multiplied his impact on helping the homeless many times over.

In other words, being a “servant” is not synonymous with servitude. Jesus’ command that we become servants means dedicating our strengths to serving others in the best way we know how. Just look at some of the great leaders like St. Ignatius and St. Teresa of Avila who became great saints by doing this.   

A beauty of Jesus’ admonition in this gospel is that it makes greatness accessible to everyone. If you’re capable of directing a university to serve homeless people, awesome. If you’re a lunch line checker at that same university who spent years serving freshmen by greeting them with a big smile and “hey, baby,” you too are great in the eyes of God.

Ironically, however, you cannot achieve greatness as a servant if you seek recognition for what you’ve done. Jesus did not like status seekers as he reminded the mother of James and John.  

So here are our marching orders for today: find a way to serve with no expectation of reward or fanfare. If we also can lead others into service, let's do so. We might just stumble into greatness in the eyes of the Lord.

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