A priest was teaching catechism to little children in the parish school. After finishing class, he stood at the classroom door as the children left for recess. As they were passing by, each child was prompted by the classroom teacher to say "thank you, father." Things were going along well until a little girl came along and said, "Thank you, Father silly-butt!" Both priest and teacher were taken by surprise! The teacher asked the little girl why she called the priest "silly butt." The child said that she had asked her parents if the priest was married and they said: "no, he's a celibate." Of course that's what the parents said, but their little daughter heard "silly butt" Misunderstandings by children can be funny and easily forgiven.

Misunderstandings by grownups, however, are a different matter, -- especially misunderstandings by adults who should know better, who claim to be followers of Jesus and committed to his Gospel.

In the Gospel, Jesus declares: "I have come to serve, not to be served." His entire public life was one of putting himself at the service of people, no matter the personal cost to himself. At the Last Supper, he actually became the servant by kneeling and washing the feet of everyone there. How did this model of Jesus' service to others ever become corrupted to the point where today's church leaders and other Christians consider themselves people of privilege and not people of service? In my early years as an ordained priest, I was part of that privileged caste. But as I grew older, I grew a little wiser and recognized privileged priesthood as a total rejection of the servant priesthood of Jesus. In today's Gospel Jesus warns us not to expect rewards for being good servants. It is simply what is expected of us who walk in the footsteps of Jesus. The follower of Jesus is essentially a person of service, not of privilege.

Recently in dioceses and archdioceses, certain bishops have resurrected the titles of "monsignor" and "right reverend monsignor" to honor priests who serve church interests well. That's precisely the problem! Too many of us serve church interests instead of Jesus' Gospel. We have a choice: either we strive for personal success, recognition and titles of honor or we answer the Gospel call to serve others as Jesus did. We can't do both. When we follow Jesus by serving others, our focus turns from what we want to what other people need. God does not call us to be successful. God calls us only to be faithful. It's a lifelong task, but it's what we are called to be by our Baptism; and the consequences of the choice we make are infinitely more important than those of a little child calling a priest "father silly butt!"

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