How Many Masters Do You Serve?
By Fr. Austin Fleming
Two really big questions staring us right in the face here:
Joshua asks his people: Whom are you going to serve?
Jesus asks his disciples: Whom are you going to follow? These are questions for us, too, and a good way to get at them might be to rephrase them just a bit and ask: “Well, whom DO I serve? Whom DO I follow?”
My guess is that most of us serve many masters.
The masters we serve are those who become our priority, our focus; those who eat up our time; those who consume our worry, our sweat and our energy;
For some , the master is the job; for some, family; for many it’s school. For some it’s a drink or a drug, sports or sex, a wager or the Internet. For others their master is their fear, anxiety, greed, envy, grief, loneliness or guilt. And most of us, whether we have a lot of it or just a little, most of us are servants of money. We all have many masters, and our masters have a leash on us and often manage our lives in ways we don’t even notice.
Most of us follow many leaders as well.
We follow those who take hold of our attention, our imagination and desires; those who shape our thinking, our politics and our beliefs; and those who mold the contours of the longings of our hearts.
We follow many leaders, you and I, and the ones we follow are so good at convincing us that each of us is really a very “independent thinker,” - certainly not given to being misled or fooled or taken in. But as every con artist knows, the easiest marks are those who are smugly convinced they can’t be conned.
So, here’s Joshua asking his people, “Whom are you going to serve?” And Jesus asking his friends,
“Will you leave me to follow someone else?”
Well, the Israelites gave the right answer to Joshua
and the disciples had the right answer for Jesus, and we know the response expected of us.
But knowing the right answer and living the right answer can be two very different things.
Am I truly living what I know to be right?
Am I serving what I know to be honorable and true?
Am I following the One whose path leads to the peace I say I really want?
How do I choose to serve the Lord?
How do I choose to follow Christ?
We’re all familiar with one way to try to do this and we’re doing it right now.
We’ve gathered in faith, to listen to the scriptures
and to share in the life of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Every weekend, here, we invite the Lord to be our master, our leader, and we promise to follow and serve him. But by the time we’re home from church or when Monday morning rolls around, things can easily and quickly return to the status quo.
Let me suggest a way for us to check ourselves on this.
Suppose I were to introduce the Lord to his competition in my life.
Suppose I imagine myself at a big conference table, or at my kitchen table or in my living room or my back yard, some place where I’ve invited all the masters I serve and leaders I follow – and Jesus, too.
So, we’re all together and I say, Jesus, I want to serve you but I’ve got these other masters, too. Allow me introduce you to my work, my fears, my ego and my self-doubt, my computer and my bank account.
Most of the time, Lord, these guys run my life and I let them make a lot of my decisions for me – even big ones! And while we’re at it, Jesus, please meet the media, the entertainment industry, my desires and fantasies, all the ideologies and politics that shape my thinking - which my heart is so quick to follow -even when I’m not sure where those paths are leading me.
What would happen if I were honest enough with myself and with God to arrange such a meeting in my mind, my heart and my prayer?
We so easily compartmentalize our faith, observing it on the Lord’s Day but failing to blend it with rest of the days of our week. How vulnerable to the truth of my life I would be were I to sit down and acknowledge the masters of my existence, all the ones whom I serve and follow - and to do this in the company of Jesus.
No hiding here, no compartmentalizing – just the truth.
Of course the Lord already knows all my masters and he knows that serving him and following him isn’t always easy. Sometimes, even often, following the Lord
means I have to dismiss other masters whom I serve
and follow a path that may not be my first choice, the path Jesus calls the way of “hard sayings.”
As Jesus asked his friends 2,000 years ago, he asks you and me today:
“Will you go your own way, too – or will you serve and follow me?”
I don’t want to leave the Lord.
And I believe you want to serve and follow him, too.
So come to his table where, with his very life in the Eucharist, he serves us and strengthens us to give and to live the right answer:
Lord, where else would we go? whom would we follow?
You alone have the words of eternal life.
Be the master of our lives.
Help us follow you- and we will serve you.