When a new prime minister takes up office one of the first things he or she does is to appoint cabinet ministers. Then in an official ceremony the chosen ones get their seal of office. These are not slow in telling the world how pleased they are to have been chosen. You hear them say such things as, “I feel very privileged,” “I feel very honored.” The odd one may say, “It’s a great challenge,” or “It’s a great responsibility.” But I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say, “It’s a wonderful opportunity to serve.”
Of course it’s an honor to be chosen. But what many of them forget, if indeed they were ever aware of it, is that it is a call to service. There is the very human temptation to be attracted by “the Meres and perks” that go with the job, as well as the status it bestows on the holder.
We are at the start of St John’s Gospel. Jesus has just appeared on the public stage. John the Baptist, who prepared the way for him, now has the further task of introducing him to the people. How does John introduce Jesus? What role does he ascribe to him? He calls Jesus God’s Chosen One.
Jesus did not take this role upon himself. He was called by God and sent by God. But once the call came, he made a total gift of himself to it. From now on he will seek, not his own honor, but the honor of his Father. And he knows that he is sent to minister to his brothers and sisters: “The Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve.”
John the Baptist also gives us a wonderful example of service. His function was to direct people to Jesus. His task was to draw back the curtain, introduced the main character, and then withdrew into the shadows. In doing this he knew he was inviting his disciples to leave him. Yet there was no jealousy on his part. In this we see his greatness. There is no harder task than to take second place especially when one has enjoyed the first place.
Through our baptism we have been called to be disciples of Jesus. This is a great honor and a great privilege. But we must not forget that it is a call to service. We need the Holy Spirit to touch our hearts. We must learn from John the Baptist not to make ourselves the center of the world. We must put our gifts at the service of others, not just of ourselves.
In our society our being chosen always implies that others are not chosen. But this is not true for God. God chooses his Son and the disciples to reveal to us that we too are chosen. In the Kingdom of God there is no room for competition or rivalry. In the Kingdom of God each person is precious and unique.