Latest Stories

Christian service –painfully lived out, but pain lovingly endured


There is a story I told earlier about the late Rolando Tinio. In the late ’60s or early ’70s, he gave a talk in an exclusive girls’ college on the power of the vernacular. For us who are old enough to remember, this era was the period of Filipinization, activism and renewed nationalism.

As Tinio was making his point, a student argued against him in colegiala English. Tinio quietly walked to the young lady while the whole auditorium watched. He stood beside the student and then told her, “Ang ___ mo!”

The young lady turned red instantaneously. Tinio then said with a smile, “You see? I told you the vernacular is more effective!”

Moving prediction

This Sunday’s Gospel is quite similar to this incident. As Christ moved closer to the fulfillment of his mission, he wanted to make sure his followers were with him—that they understood who he really was, the Messiah, and his mission.

After his moving prediction of his betrayal—“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men…”—as well as passion, death and resurrection, his followers, or some at least, still seemed to miss the whole point. “They did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.”

But worse—the worst, actually—was that, immediately after this prediction of the suffering of the Messiah as the first and foremost man-for-others and servant-leader, the disciples argued about who was the greatest among themselves.

This is just like Tinio delivering an impassioned lecture on the power of the vernacular, and we who went through that period in our nation’s story, and who knew Tinio and what he stood for can imagine how moving and powerful this lecture must have been. It was an appeal not just on behalf of the Filipino language, but also for nurturing the soul and identity of our people.

But then, imagine someone, a young colegiala in this case, standing up and trying to dispute that passion. Talk about raining on someone’s parade. This is what the disciples did.

Shock effect

Tinio’s unorthodox response drove home his point.

This was what Christ did. He drove home the point. If you want to be the first and the greatest, he said, you have to be “the last of all and the servant of all.”

Then he pointed out to whom they needed to be servants. To the child who is helpless and holds no real influence in society, who is weak and powerless, who is the symbol of innocence, purity and hope, to whom the future belongs.

This Sunday’s Gospel drives home the point what it means to be Christian and to render Christian service. As the “Prayer for Generosity” states, it is “to give and not to count the cost, to toil and not seek for rest, to labor and ask not for any reward.”

To be Christian is to be selfless and “the servant of all.”

Humility, selflessness

There is a story about a man from Sparta named Paedaretos. Sparta was governed by 300 of its best and most distinguished men, and these 300 were chosen. In one such election, Paedaretos was not included.

After his loss, Paedaretos was consoled by friends. They extolled his competence and brilliance and said what a loss it was to Sparta that he, Paedaretos, was not chosen to be part of the 300.

Paedaretos’ response was that he was happy to see there were 300 men in Sparta who were more deserving, competent and brilliant than he. This humility and selflessness earned him the respect and admiration of Sparta.

Worthy of emulation

This is a public servant worthy of emulation. How many of us will place the community’s interests above our own? How many of us will acknowledge that others can do a better job than we?

The heart and core of Christian service is following Christ and imitating him in the pattern of his Cross and Resurrection, the Paschal Mystery. Christ, time and again, said this is the only way—the way of the Cross and the Resurrection.

The first step in living a life of authentic Christian service is to overcome our self-centeredness and be totally other-centered—God first and then our neighbors.

We have seen many people who have seemingly embraced noble causes. But a closer look will show us how such “good things” disguise a self-centered, even narcissistic person.

No accident

It is no accident that Christ takes a child, places the child in the midst of his followers, embraces it and declares that whoever receives the child receives him. Christ clearly defines Christian service as a service toward the helpless, the weak, the powerless.

This is service that seeks no reward and recognition. Christ clearly defined Christian service as the act of imitating him who chose to undergo suffering and death—a choice that was lovingly made, but still painfully lived out.

This is the shocking, painful reality: Christian service is painfully lived out, but the pain is lovingly endured. As Hannah Hurnard puts it, pain and love go together, for a time at least. But when love bears fruit, the pain is no more. It is all love. It is pure love.

This is the love that makes us follow Christ in our day-to-day lives. It echoes St. Ignatius of Loyola’s prayers: “…And ask not for any reward, save that of knowing I am doing your most holy will” and “Give me only your love and grace, these make me rich and I ask for nothing more.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Messiah , Rolando Tinio , Sunday Gospel , vernacular

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • Malaysia to release MH370 report–PM
  • Man found dead in Quezon City, alleged victim of summary execution–report
  • Aquino to lead Air Force turnover rites
  • Security in place for Obama as police hope for ‘peaceful’ visit
  • Retired SC justice Lorenzo Relova; 98
  • Sports

  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Galedo caps ride of redemption
  • Beermen, Express dispute second semis slot today
  • Lady Agilas upset Lady Bulldogs in four sets
  • NLEX roars to 7th D-League win
  • Lifestyle

  • ‘Recovered’ Banksy works on display ahead of sale
  • Marinduque: Visiting the ‘palm of the ocean’
  • First at Vatican in 60 years
  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Entertainment

  • Paul McCartney to play at Candlestick concert
  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • Business

  • PAL hailed for ban on shark fin cargo
  • BSP to change tint of P100 bill
  • Nielsen sees car buying boom in the Philippines
  • How author of best-seller exposed ‘one percent’ economic elite
  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Technology

  • Cloud strength helps Microsoft earnings top Street
  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • Opinion

  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • A graduation story
  • Global Nation

  • Only 4 Etihad passengers not accounted for
  • Abandoned in Malta,15 PH seamen return
  • Senator hopes PH will also get same vow
  • HK victims to get P115M; traders raised money
  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 US doctors, including Fil-Am pediatrician