I don't think it's a stretch to say that all of us have a selfish streak deep within us. In some way or another, we all want to be recognized for something we have or do. Whether it's for our talents, for the work that we do, or even for things that we own, we want to be noticed and affirmed.
In contrast to our selfish desires, we are called to “do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory,” as St. Paul tells us in today's second reading. As Christians, we are called to self-giving instead of self-centered. We are called to reach out to those around us instead of trying to draw others to us.
Ironically, by being self-giving, we can often become unappreciated. Many of us probably know someone who is self-centered, and has moved up the ranks of an organization, whether a corporation, a political structure, or a volunteer organization, based off of promoting himself to the exclusion and even detriment of those around him. Meanwhile, we may also know another member of the organization that has worked just as hard as the selfish member, but works to support and help the other members of the organization. This self-giving member may not receive the promotions and accolades of those who are willing to “toot their own horn”, but still continues to serve, day after day.
We are called to be like the self-giving member of an organization, even if it means giving to others to the detriment of ourselves. St. Paul tells us to “humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” We must be willing to overlook our interests, our desires, even our needs to fulfill the needs and interests of others.
Why should we be willing to do this? After all, someone who is more selfish than us will more than happily take advantage of us. St. Paul answers this question by showing us the example of Jesus himself. As St. Paul states, Our Lord humbled himself by becoming human and was willing to give of himself so totally that he died on the Cross. Because of his self-sacrifice, He was highly exalted by the Father, and now we proclaim the name of Jesus with great honor and reverence.
We probably won't be as greatly revered as Jesus is, but those who are willing to give of themselves are often highly regarded by those they serve. As a new priest here, I've been hearing about those who were members of the parish before I arrived. Usually, and almost without exception, the people whose names are mentioned time and time again are those who went out of their way to serve others, regardless of their own issues or problems. They were there at every social event, usually helping put it together, at every volunteer opportunity, and every time someone was in need of help. I'm sure all of us could name someone who fits that description, and who is dearly missed. This is who we are called to be, and we are encouraged by the examples of those who have gone before us, especially Our Lord and the saints.
Those who are self-giving aren't often noticed here on Earth. There are those who graciously serve us every day, and we often don't pay attention to how someone has gone out of their way to help us. All too often, we're wrapped up in ourselves and our needs to recognize the needs of those around us. We must be more aware of how others serve us, and be more willing to express gratitude for their service.
As I am very much guilty of this, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who help out here in the Church, and all those who have helped Fr. Rob and myself in some way. I truly am grateful for everything you do, and appreciate the willingness of each of you to give your time and talent to helping us. It is greatly appreciated, even if I don't always take the time to say so.
St. Paul reminds us that we are all called to place others over ourselves. By doing so, we may not be recognized on Earth, but our reward will be great in Heaven.