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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - The Master Has Need of It

Robert Barron - The Master Has Need of It

Robert Barron - The Master Has Need of It

Peace be with you. We come today to Palm Sunday, the beginning of the holiest week of the year, and of course we read at Mass the wonderful Passion narrative. But I want to focus today not on the Passion narrative but on the Gospel that we proclaim just before the procession with palms, the very beginning of Mass. Many years ago, I saw a Mass card. It's a little card that a young priest, a new priest, puts out as a sign of his day, and there's usually on the card a little motto. I was very struck by this card because here was the motto: "The Master has need of it". That was it. I've seen a thousand mottoes for priests' first Masses. I had never seen that. The Master has need of it.

Well, where's that from? It's from our Gospel reading for Palm Sunday, the Gospel we read in advance of the procession with palms. What's it describing? Well, that moment when the Lord says to two of his disciples, "I want you to go into the city to prepare for the Last Supper". And they're told to untether a donkey, and if there's any protest from the owner they are to say, "The Master has need of it". Well, it struck me, that's a terrific motto for a priest as he begins his priestly life. Signaling the humility of the one being called, like a donkey, like a humble animal made for work, not very graceful, unlikely to draw attention to itself. Even that eloquent use of the impersonal pronoun. The Master has need of it. Signaling again just the pure humility of the one who's been chosen.

I love how that motto places the priest's entire life under the aegis of the Master. The Master needs this young person's life. The Master needs this young person's service. What he was saying was, "My life doesn't belong to me". What he was saying was, "I hereby surrender any sense of career, any sense of my own plans, my own projects. No, no. My whole life is about the Master and what the Master needs, and I'm willing to cooperate". He was to be an instrument of Christ's purpose, period. Well, everybody, that's true in a unique sense of the priest, and that would be talk for another day, to talk about the way the priest is used by Christ, but I would say this: This basic idea is true of every baptized person. Every baptized person should say in regard to himself or herself, "The Master has need of me". We speak of Baptism as a character sacrament. "Character," both Greek and Latin, has the sense of "brand".

And again, think of the animal world. When an owner was branding an animal he'd use a "character". Or, when a young man entered the Roman army, he was branded usually on the upper arm with a "character," and the brand marked him as a member of the Roman army, just as the brand marked the animal as belonging to the owner. So, when a baby's baptized, when an adult is baptized, he or she receives a brand, a character, that says, "I belong to Christ. The Master has need of me, and my whole life now is about that, not about my projects and plans".

Let me say a quick word about need. It might strike you as odd. God doesn't need anything, and that's strictly speaking true. God's the Lord of the whole universe. God is the unconditioned act of being itself. God's the creator of all things, so God needs nothing. God doesn't need our existence. God doesn't need our good works. God could accomplish what he wants on his own, that's true. But, it speaks to the privilege, everybody, of the Christian life. God delights in allowing us to cooperate with his providence. Sure, God could accomplish things on his own, but he delights in letting us participate, giving us the privilege. Thomas Aquinas speaks of the dignity of causality, that we can act as instruments or secondary causes for God's purpose. Doesn't need us in the strict sense, but he needs us in the sense that he wants to draw us into his work.

And see, once we get this, I think everything changes in our lives. Once we understand this principle, everything is revolutionized. Because customarily we think, "Well, yeah, my talents and capacities and abilities, they're for me to make my life better, to make my life more accomplished so I can do what I want. Lucky me that I have these gifts so I can accomplish my goals". But see, in light of this principle, we should turn all of that around, turn that on its head. Rather, the gifts we have, by the way, properly named gifts, not things that I've earned or deserved, the gifts I receive are for the sake of Christ so that Christ can use them for his salvific purpose.

So let's make it more concrete. Did you ever ask... Let's say you're a very smart person. You're intelligent. You've always done well in school. You've got advanced degrees. You're quick on your feet. You're articulate. Do you ever ask, "Hmm, how come I have such capacity? How come I'm so smart"? Oh, so you can show off and you can accomplish great things for yourself? No, no, no. It's to serve Christ and his purposes. To give your mind, to give your sharp and acute mind to Christ that he might use it. Think here of a great saint such as Thomas Aquinas, my hero, one of the masterminds of Western civilization, ranking with Plato and Kant and one of the greatest minds. How beautiful that Aquinas gave that mind to Christ, used it to serve Christ's purposes. The Master had need of it, and Aquinas knew that.

Let's say you're really good with people. You're an extroverted, gregarious type. People like you. You're popular. "Hey, good for me. That means I got a lot of friends and I'm a popular guy". Yeah, that's a very superficial way to look at it. What if you were to say, "No no, I've received this gift of gregariousness so I could give it back to Christ, so I could use that gift now to be an evangelist to reach out to people. If they like me, I'm popular, well good, that gives me a sort of entree into their lives, and I can speak therefore of the Lord more efficaciously".

Why are you so good working with kids? Let's say you're really good at that, and kids respond to you and you know how to reach them. Well, maybe you're like Don Bosco, the great saint who dedicated his life to caring for kids. Maybe it's because Christ wants you to use that particular gift for his purpose. Why do you have the gift of courage? I think of friends of mine, and even as little kids they were the first ones to try something difficult. There was a challenge or there was an opportunity, and they were the first ones in line to try it and they were kind of throwing caution to the wind. And in the course of their lives, they continued to be courageous, willing to try things, take on dangers.

Well, "That's for me so I can be a cool kind of daredevil"? Or, maybe Christ gave you that courage that you might use it for his purposes. Think of the saints now up and down the centuries, not just the martyrs, they're the limit case, people whose courage served Christ, but all the saints who were called upon to do dangerous and difficult things. Think of a Francis Xavier, a moving figure to me, leaving behind his life in Europe, leaving behind everybody he knew, going on the leaky boats of that era, going across the world to proclaim the Gospel to people that he knew nothing about. Dying thousands of miles from his home. His marvelous courage that enabled him to do that.

Think of an Isaac Jogues who came from France to this country to work with the native peoples and found himself brutally tortured even to the point of losing his fingers on his right hand. He returns to France and he was lionized. You know, people admired him legitimately for his great courage. But Isaac Jogues decided, "I'm going to go back. I'm going to go back to the same people who had been so cruel to me because I want to preach the Gospel to them". And he lost life in that process.

Why do you have courage if you've got it? It's not for your purposes, not for your career, not for your advancement, but maybe the courage you've been given is because Christ wants you to use that to do his sometimes dangerous and difficult work. How come you're such a good teacher? Maybe you've just got a way with communicating the truth. You know, you're not going to make a lot of money using that in the world. Maybe it's because Christ wants you to be a teacher of the faith.

Young people today needing teachers of the faith? You bet. Lots of young people alienated from the faith. Maybe your skill as a teacher is something the Master has need of right now, and he gave you that gift that you might give it back to him. How come you've got such a sympathy for the poor? I've known people from the time they were little kids that had this great sympathy for those who suffer. They had a great gift of compassion. Again, it's probably not going to advance you very far in the world, but maybe Christ gave it to you because he wants you to give it back to him to be of service to his people. You see my point. The way we look at our life will utterly change if we let that little line sink in. The Master has need of it. That means that in my humility I'm going to give back what Christ gave to me.

Let me close just by reflecting on this last thing. The Lord says, "Now go into the city, and I want you to untether the donkey, and if anyone asks, you say, 'The Master has need of it.'" But I want to focus on the untethering. You see, how wonderful that this donkey was liberated for Christ's service. Think of that tethering. An animal that's tethered in place, it can't move, it's stuck. The way, everybody, that most of us live is a kind of tethering. We're tied to the goods of the world. We're tied to our own projects and plans. We're tied to our own petty reputations. We're tied to our own pride, wealth and power, pleasure, honor. We're tethered to these things.

How wonderful that one of the Apostles of the Lord comes and unties that animal. Think of that now. The grace of Christ untethering you from these attachments that you have which have just made you unhappy. Let's be honest, right? Whenever we live our life that way, "it's my projects, my plans, look at me", it leads down a road to great unhappiness. Let Christ's grace untether you from all that and free you, paradoxically, to be of service to him. Because when you serve the Lord Jesus Christ, it's not a type of servitude. It's not a kind of enslavement. In fact, it's a liberation. So on this Palm Sunday, identify with that little humble donkey, that little humble animal. Look at the whole of your life and say, "You know, ultimately, the Master has need of it," and give your life over to him. And God bless you.
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