“His (Jesus’) state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave and became as men are, he was humbler yet, even accepting death, death on a cross.” (Phil. 2,7)
Llisten more from Apostle Paul: “If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade you all,…then be united in your convictions and love, with a common purpose and common mind….There must be no competition among you, no conceit, but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interest first but everybody thinks of the other people’s interest instead.” (Phi.2, 1-5)
This is what ought to constitute the essence of anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus or calls himself/herself a ‘Christian’. This name was first used in Antioch many years after Jesus’ death, but never during Jesus’ life. With the advent of thousands of churches in the middle ages the original group was called ‘Catholic’ and the rest Christian. Thus the name ‘Catholic ’which aught to mean universal actually became ‘Ghetto’. Why?
The original Christian community usurped that name, to distinguish itself after many groups rebelled and broke away especially with the historic Lutheran Schism. In effect what JESUS meant for all, his followers made it particular, each organizer assuming a particular name. Result? Today there are thousands of organized Churches, starting with names of the organizers. Hence also the hue and cry that ‘Organized Religions’ meant for organizers should end.
Slavish service: Hall mark
To come back to the main theme we started with; ‘What is Christmas and what it means to be a follower of Jesus, the simple answer is; All those who follow the life and teachings of Jesus in word and deed should do the self-emptying to become the least, a ‘slave’ to serve humbly those most in need.
If all have to have that humble mentality of a ‘Slave’ to serve those most in need, where is place for inequality; where is room for master and servant; where is place for a higher and lower of class distinctions of a Hindu caste system; where is any room for a hierarchical class system that starts with the laity on the ground and goes up step by step – religious, clerics/priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and the Pope at the top of the ladder – all of which brooks no breaking?
Of course our present Pope who places himself one step below the laity to deserve the title: “Servant of servants” is a towering exception, frowned upon and fought against by many power hungry top personalities in the hierarchy, who want to shine like peacocks in appearance and dominate others like a tiger or lion in the jungles.
The patron saints of these crooked canvassers were already among the 12 apostles of Jesus: James and John who tried in vain to sit on the right and left as Prime Ministers in his kingdom. They used their mother to plead with Jesus to grant them that coveted honor. This type of canvassing is being done even today under the reign of Francis which he stoutly opposes and therefore has become a Bate Noire, an arch enemy of many aspiring bishops and cardinals.
Saint rebuking Pope
There were also Popes with such craze for pomp and power. Listen to what St. Bernard said to such a pope Eugenius III (pope from 1145-1153) who was his subordinate before: “When the pope, clad in silk, covered with gold and jewels, rides out on his white horse, escorted by soldiers and servants, he looks more like Constantine’s successor than St Peter’s”. That was witnessing par excellence to the spirit of Jesus, which we are discussing here.
It was precisely to correct this wrong lifestyle and outlook that Pope John XXIII called the Vatican II: “to sweep clean the dust of the empire accumulated on the throne of Peter, ever since the time of Constantine” and what Francis does one better by saying: “I am a sinner!”. Much before him St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo described himself: “For you I am a Bishop, but with you I am a Christian” to emphasis his equality with all followers of Jesus who emptied himself to serve as “Emmanuel”, God with us. Only the really exalted can come down and be really one “with us” in every respect.
Come down to Cattle Class!
So the message of Christmas is what Jesus told Zacheus: “Come down from the tree top if I have to sup with you.” He repeats the same call to every one in the hierarchical ladder trying to climb higher and higher by hook or crook, and to the laity in the secular domain, presenting themselves as ‘intellectuals’ or canvassing for Chevalier-type of positions. Living examples are those who are just bishops but calling and presenting themselves as Archbishops, pretending themselves, on one pretext or other, to be much more than what they really are.
Is this not the same message that the “self-emptying of Jesus in a cattle shed, borne there because there was no room for Him in the palaces of the comfortable class, tells us? Shouldn’t all those who consider him as lord, master, teacher, guide and ‘Son of Man’, the ideal human for all humans, think seriously and change their lifestyle to become humbler and more credible? That is precisely why we the CCV group call ourselves the CATTLE CLASS to make a small beginning at least in this direction, for two reasons:
Two aspects of cattle class
First: Jesus self-emptied himself in a Cattle shed. He could not have lowered himself further. He thus became one with the wretched lot of humanity – like the haggard looking migrants who trudge the dusty, dirty roads, shot at and tortured or drowned in sea or the helpless women folk, young and old raped and brutally murdered for no valid reason.
Second: Cattle class has come to become synonymous with the lowest, despised rung in society, the poor, abandoned, untouchables, outcastes and uncared for of which no one wants to be a part. Recall a typical marriage add: “Wanted, a beautiful, well educated, Suriyani girl.” While all are in the rat race for top class, followers of Jesus are called to run for the last place in the CATTLE CLASS, in the company of ‘sacred’ cows, dogs and donkeys. Any takers? At least for a trial?
Some one once said: “There was only one Christian in the whole world. He died on the cross. Literally true! Not even St. Francis, though called the second Christ. Rani Maria suffered like Jesus on the cross. Fr. Damian kissed, embraced and served the lepers. Myriad are the roles the cattle class offers each one of us to serve. What ever they be, what is vital is to have that humility and readiness to serve the least, last and needy.
To serve, not to be Served
It is variously said: “Those who stand and wait also serve”, also, “to serve the Lord is to reign” (Servire Domino regnare est). Therefore those alone who are ready to serve the poor and needy in humble surroundings have any right to celebrate or rejoice at the birth of Jesus. Wish you all that Spirit of ‘self-emptying’ during this Christmas!