First woman deacon we hear of?

Do not be served, instead be at service, Feb 3, 2018, by Mary M. McGlone, NCRonline.org

When Mark says that Millie waited on them, he is giving her higher praise than the apostles ever earned. He is telling us that Millie accepted the gift Jesus was offering the world and responded by becoming a servant like him.

Our other two readings offer different perspectives on the idea of service. Job’s lament comes out of his tragic experience of having been blessed with plenty and then losing everything. While he might have felt that he had earned his good life, he was certain that he was not guilty of anything for which God should punish him by stripping him of wealth, health and even his posterity.

Utterly frustrated in his desire for what he understood as justice, Job’s experience of undeserved suffering ultimately opened him to a different concept of God and to compassion for others who suffer in innocence. The humiliation of realizing he had done nothing to earn his well-being any more than his suffering opened Job to a more honest relationship with the God, who loves saint and sinner, the strong and the debilitated.

Job’s theological reflections taught him about the God who desires life for all of creation. With that, Job was on the way to sharing faith with Millie and Paul.

What Paul adds to our discussion is his sense that once he came to know Christ he was impelled to serve Christ and the Gospel. When he says, “Woe to me if I do not preach it!”, Paul admits that the only way to be truly himself is to carry Christ’s work forward. Like Millie, he knows that service is the only thing that makes sense of his life, not because he’s looking for a reward, but because he is expressing what has come alive within him.

Today’s Liturgy of the Word invites us to spend time with three of our ancestors in faith. Job the theologian will caution us about any sense of entitlement, reminding us that nothing we can do merits life and the love of God. We can only receive them as free gifts. Paul the passionate apostle challenges us to evaluate whether our way of life and the messages we proclaim are true to who we are and God’s life in us.

St. Millie leads the way in showing us how to be faithful images of the Master. She demonstrates that sharing God’s love can be as simple as setting the table and enjoying communion with anyone who comes.

[Mary M. McGlone, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, is writing the history of the St. Joseph sisters in the U.S.]

Editor’s note: This Sunday scripture commentary appears in full in NCR’s sister publication Celebration, a worship and homiletic resource. Request a sample issue at CelebrationPublications.org.

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