Catholics are called to a life of service, we are baptized in to it and Jesus himself lived the example of it for us. But what is being a servant? How do we live a life of servanthood in the modern world, and better yet, how do we teach this to our youth when most of us don’t truly understand it?
The concept of servanthood is lost on most adult Catholics, but I would have to guess that it is even more so on our youth. In today’s world the concept of helping others out, just because, is a lost concept. Most adults expect something from it, a pat on the back, a new line to add to the resume or maybe even to get noticed by our boss. Our youth expect to earn credit for school or maybe even hours towards their Christian service requirement for conformation. We treat community/Christian service as a task or obligation, not as a privilege. We are looking at it all wrong!
A few years ago I was assisting in a conformation formation program were the usual number of “community service” hours were expected to “graduate” from religious education. The lead and I both felt that this method of teaching community service was both wasteful and sent the wrong message. We, along with every other program in the nation, were reducing the conformation process down to a series of tasks that you are to check off. Thirty hours of class room, check, ten hours of community service, check, paid my tuition, check… Now I must be ready for conformation.
That is the sad truth of most programs in use today. The basic concept of servanthood is lost, the message of Jesus has been reduced to a “standard” a “minimum” .
The path of the lest resistance has become the mantra of today’s servant projects. Somewhere along the line the whole Jesus washing the feet thing got turned into hours and minuets. We have take the concept of helping out neighbors and placed the requirement of them sighing a “service contract” to obtain the credit. Service of others has become a form of bartering, I’ll serve you if you serve me (sign my contract, fulfill my hours…).
Is it any wonder that we have to teach our youth all about service and what it means to be a servant? The basic concept is lost on them. I dare you to walk in to any 6th grade class and ask them if they would like to be servants. I did this and the looks on their faces said it all…
But Jesus calls us all to be servants. The bible is full of stories about being in service to others, yet we fail to truly understand this concept.
We are often amazed to hear or read stories about people who give of themselves freely, Mother Teresa being a perfect example. She was truly a servant to humanity, yet we fail to see that in ourselves. Mother Teresa gave without expecting anything in return, she gave because Jesus gave, she gave because God called her to give. She gave because she loved.
“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing.
It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.”
The above quote from Mother Teresa says it all.
If we want our youth to look at service as a privilege and not an obligation, as pleasure and not punishment than we need to rethink how we teach them. We need to approach service as Jesus did, as an honor.