Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter
(Acts 13:13-25; John 13:16-20)
In John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost the great angel Lucifer takes a definitive stand against God. “I will not serve,” he says. To punctuate the point, he adds that it is “better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.” Off he goes to bring havoc to the world, not least terribly by distorting our notion of service.
Service seems to call into question the exalted idea we have of ourselves. It apparently shows to the world and to ourselves that we are not the force that sets the universe in motion but a small cog in the order of things. Yet Jesus served -- very visibly the night he took off his tunic to wash the feet of his disciples. Service then does not demean our stature; quite the contrary it conforms us to the Lord. When we serve faithfully and well, we prove ourselves worthy of a place in God’s house, a seat at His table.
The reference to Judas in the gospel reading today points to a man who, like Lucifer, refuses to serve. It is opined – perhaps because he was the treasurer of the community -- that Judas rivaled Peter as head disciple. In the reading Jesus implies that Judas’ difficulty is that he cannot see himself taking off his tunic, much less giving his life in faithful service. Thus, he too takes a definitive stand against the Lord.