31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Nov. 5, 2017


In preaching his mission, Christ shaped with his words and his deeds what he wanted service to others to look like. He wanted his disciples to be shepherds, ready to lay down their lives for their flock. Humble service is the heart of Jesus’ good news.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is agreeing with Malachi’s message by stating strongly to his disciples that they are to minister without concern for rank or privilege and with impartiality. Indeed, Jesus showed that he came to serve everyone wherever he found him or her, and he found all kinds: lepers, those possessed by demons, and outcasts like the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus healed them simply by putting self second and venturing among the marginalized.

What Jesus did as he ministered is not to be passed over quickly. His desire to heal these outcasts and not accept any title of deference to him was deliberate. This is why the Lord is pleased with Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica. While not being afraid to challenge wrongdoing when he saw it, Paul never lorded over his flock; he worked side by side with believers and nonbelievers while earning his own way.

Pope Francis continues to remind religious leaders that service is a mixture of humility and mingling among the people. In fact, Pope Francis described this nearness as being “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”

Humility is the prized virtue God wishes all to practice. Jesus was humble by telling us that everything he accomplished or achieved came from his Father. Therefore, we can never act superior over another. All gifts, large or small, belong to God and God alone.

Simone Biles, the 19-year-old multiple medal winner at the 2016 Olympic Games, showed the humility Jesus asks his disciples to display. Simone knew her past. Her parents had drug addiction problems. She also realized her Olympic success came not from gold medals, but from her Catholic faith taught by her loving grandparents. Her faith shaped her attitude. Simone always traveled with reminders of her faith: a statue of St. Sebastian, the patron of athletes; a rosary given by her birth mother; and by reciting one Hail Mary before each event. Each of these reminded her that nothing was hers, but her gifts were given to her by God. As a result, she never felt haughty, only grateful that God blessed her with wonderful athletic talent.

Jesus knows this message of humility can be difficult, because discipleship is about being last, not first. But if we look to Jesus, he shows us the way.

Humble Service

Homily Helps for the October issue were written by FATHER RICHARD R. DE LILLIO, OSFS, D. Min., an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, who is a recently retired associate professor of homiletics at The Catholic University of America.