It is a truth universally known by all Christians that we are called to serve those in need. Which is why we are consistently fundraising, collecting donations, and volunteering for events such as our wonderful Safe Car Park. We understand the importance of serving others in the practice of living out our faith. We know what to do because we’ve seen those that came before us do it. There are flyers encouraging us to donate warm clothes, food, and funds. We saw Jesus himself serve and care for the sick, the poor, and his own disciples.
As a cradle catholic who attended Catholic Schools until I was 18 I was very familiar with service projects, service trips, and donation drives. But it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I came to understand what it meant to have a heart of service.
Yes, we are called to do acts of service for our brothers and sisters and to be extra mindful of serving those that are less fortunate and in need. But we are not called to simply perform acts of service, but to have a heart of service. And it is my opinion that to have a heart of service is to see the individuals we serve as just that, as individual persons.
Five years ago, I had the opportunity to exercise having a heart of service when I participated in a feed the homeless walk in San Francisco where everyone made sandwiches and then went out into the streets to feed the homeless, but we had specific instructions. We were to take two sandwiches, one for the person we would be feeding and one for ourselves. Once we found someone who accepted our sandwich we were to sit with them and eat with them. We were instructed to be able to come back and tell the organizer the person’s eye color, favorite food, and something we had in common with them.
How often do we look those we serve in the eye and take time to be in companionship with them?
I am so often guilty of being single-mindedly transactional in my acts of service. I’ll lead with the desire to be of service and to have a large quantitative reach, rather than leading with my heart and the desire to be in communion with those I encounter.
So, Church, I invite us to reflect on what it means to have a heart of service? I invite us to reflect on the whole individual persons we encounter when serving, fundraising, or donating. Even if we don’t meet those we will be serving, we can still pray and care for the individual and say a special blessing over our donated items.
~ Aline Santos
Christ the Good Shepherd
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