Christ First

When John the Baptist was still preaching and baptizing, his disciples became concerned about Jesus’ ministry and that people had begun to go to Jesus instead of John. John replies to them, “’No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. He must increase; I must decrease.’” (NAB, JN 3:27, 28, 30)

This Gospel message is a wonderful reminder that our call to follow Jesus and to preach and live the Good News is all about Jesus, not us. Sometimes, we can get so caught up in ministry activities and evangelization that it becomes “our” thing. True ministry is never “our” thing. Serving God must be about him, and him alone. Service comes from a loving relationship for the one we love, not actions and opportunities for us to be glorified, admired, or revered. Today’s Gospel message calls us to check ourselves and remind that Jesus must be first and primary; he is the reason for all we do. He must increase; we must decrease.

Keep from the sin of pride, Lord, and all the other sins that can tempt me when I put myself first. Allow me to become small and transparent, so that when others see me, they only see you, and that in accordance with your will, everything that I do and say brings you, and you alone, everlasting glory. Amen.

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Serve Others

While we pray and think about the upcoming celebration of Mary’s pregnancy and the birth of her son Jesus, Scripture makes us aware of another pregnancy with a promise. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah, was becoming elderly and had been barren. Elizabeth, however, according to the prophecy of an angel and according to God’s will, did became pregnant with John the Baptist, and when Mary heard of Elizabeth’s pregnancy through the Angel Gabriel, she at once set off to help her elder cousin.

The nearly 100-mile trip that Mary took, likely by donkey along sweltering, unpaved roads, was difficult and treacherous, especially since she herself was pregnant. Nevertheless, her grace, the presence of Jesus, and her charitable desire to help her cousin supported her through her 4- or 5-day journey, until finally, “she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.’” (NAB, LK 1:40-44)

Mary stayed with her until just before the birth of John. Mary, the mother of God, served her cousin Elizabeth while she needed her. Jesus calls all of us to serve others in love and humility. [He who is greatest will be least. Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.]

Jesus, help me to see you and serve you in others. Fill me with your divine grace, so that through charity and humility, I may urgently serve you in others. Make me sensitive to those in need, especially the outcast, the rejected, the hurting, and the lost, so that your love, working through me, becomes a blessing to those in my world. Amen.

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