Imitating Mary’s Humble Service in the Year of the Clergy and the Consecrated Life

This year’s theme for the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is meant to remind not only the Clergy and the Religious, but also the Lay Faithful, of our call to serve. The words of Jesus come to mind: “I have come not to be served, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28) Service, which is also called Pastoral Charity, is at the heart of the life and ministry of the Clergy and consecrated persons. In this regard, Mary is an eminent example. When, at the moment of the annunciation, Mary was told that she would be the mother of the Son of God, without even fully understanding the consequences, she declared: “I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to thy will.” (Luke 1:38). Here, we find an element of humble service expressed in the French word: disponibilité, which means ‘availability’. Humble service is availability. Mother Teresa once said: “The willingness to offer oneself is very important.” Sadly, leaders or those who promised to serve have become ‘difficult to reach, cannot be reached, out of service, or untouchable’. Humble service is making our resources, our talents, our treasures, our bread, and especially ourselves available for others. The offering of oneself, however, does not always mean being accepted. Oftentimes, in the course of helping others, despite our wholehearted efforts, we are neglected, embarrassed, blamed, or humiliated even. Here is another element of humble service -being humiliated. Isn’t it the lot of servants to be humiliated as they serve? Isn’t it the lot of servants not to be recognized after fulfilling their tasks? Pope Francis said, one cannot be humble without experiencing humiliations (Cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, #118). Mary, as she fulfilled her task of accompanying Jesus, had her own experiences of humiliations, but imitating Mary’s humble service means being ready to face such moments in life. It also means not being recognized, rewarded nor recompensed. In those occasions when we do things ‘gratis et amore’, we imitate Mary’s humble service. When Mary learned about the pregnancy of her cousin Elizabeth, she went out of her way to visit and assist her. It was then when Mary sang her famous hymn, the Magnificat. Mary went out of her way to help Elizabeth and this is another element of humble service -going out of one’s way, outside of one’s comfort zone to help someone in need. To serve our families is something expected. To work at the office or at an institution which provides us monthly sustenance is commonplace. But when we reach out to those who are outside our usual sphere of view, influence and service; when we dedicate time to those we do not know or those who may not repay us -the poor, the sick, the suffering, those at the peripheries -this is indeed humble service. On one occasion, at Cana, when Mary realized there was no more wine at the Wedding, she turned to Jesus, who told her it was not his time yet. But she instructed the servants: ‘Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5) One Bishop loved to say: “In the scriptures, ‘Jesus is the spotlight, Mary is the highlight.’” To imitate Mary is to be happy when one takes the role of a spotlight. Thus, one must always remember to put Jesus at the center of one’s life, for everything must be anchored on him.