Pulpit Reflections

Pulpit Reflections By Fr. Don Imming It was 21 years ago this summer I came to Vermillion in a different capacity as chaplain at the Catholic Student Center. Fr. James Doyle, whose tenure here had been long and well appreciated, stayed on for a year to break me in. He asked me to write an ad for the Volante, reasserting our presence on campus and making us known to new students.

From the comments I received it must have been by far the best ever put in the Volante and there were many. The ad simply said, in very large print, "We at the Newman Center believe that the most intriguing word in the English language is GOD."

As churches, perhaps we need to be reminded from time to time what is central to religion generally and to Christianity in particular. Yes, it is service, but the service more precisely of God. Not other people, not the poor, not the young, not the elderly, not the distressed, but God.

It is true that Jesus identifies the service of others with the service of God. That is a distinctive trait of Christ's gospel message. But we always serve others for God's sake.

The first commandment as found in Deuteronomy (the Hebrew "Shema") is that we should love God wholeheartedly. And the second, Jesus adds from Leviticus, is to love our neighbor. The second is a way of implementing the first.

Does loving our neighbor for God's sake demean our neighbor? I don't think so. It means giving greater value to the neighbor, not less. It means seeing God in our neighbor and our neighbor in God.

Motive is what sets apart Christian service from other kinds of service. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, now deceased, for a few decades gave not only the church, but the world, a powerful witness to what Christian service was all about. In India she founded a new community of religious sisters to serve the poorest of the poor � the homeless, the abandoned, the dying. And she insisted that the sisters share in solidarity with the poor their poverty.

So powerful was her service that she began attracting other women to her community by the hundreds. The world took notice � not only featured in the media widely over many years, but courted by political leaders. Finally she was presented with the Nobel Peace Prize.

What she did was for God. She never hid her fundamental motivation. It did not mean she loved the poor less, but more. So should our service be � whatever we do � for God. We are his servants.

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