December 12, 2020 – Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
God wants us to be His handmaids. He needs us to be His handmaids.
You don’t hear the word handmaids used much in modern times. Historically and biblically, handmaids generally worked for the wealthy, particularly royalty. By definition, handmaids were those whose sole function was to serve or assist their master. They worked in the trenches, doing the dirty work no one else wanted to do. The will of their master be done, not theirs.
While we may pay laborers to do work we are unable or unwilling to do, we don’t have someone at our beck and call, responding to our every need – with the exception of a few lucky pastors who have a deacon assigned to their parish.
Many of us, including myself, take pride in the fact that we are willing to do the dirty work. I watch the show Dirty Jobs on TV and often say, “I’d be willing to do that!” I would be willing to clean out the inside of a garbage truck or shovel out the stalls at a dairy farm. I am also the guy who is OK with putting away the chairs after an event or pushing a broom when needed.
Maybe this describes you as well. You take pride knowing that no job is beneath you.
You may be thinking, “I would make a great handmaid!” You feel like you can confidently proclaim the same words Mary spoke to the angel, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” His will be done, not mine.
I apologize for bursting your bubble, but there is something you should know. While you are to be commended for your willingness to be a handmaid, God does not likely need you to clean out garbage trucks or shovel out the stalls of dairy farms.
God’s dirty work may not actually get you dirty at all. It is dirty work because it is the difficult work, the work no one likes to do, the work that makes us uncomfortable.
Doing God’s dirty work means boldly stepping into situations where you see an injustice taking place. It means speaking out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves – the unborn, the afflicted, and the disenfranchised.
Doing God’s dirty work means rolling up your sleeves to care for the poor and the homeless – praying for them, sharing what you have, dignifying them by looking them in the eye and speaking with them – human being to human being.
Doing God’s dirty work means promoting and defending the Church, wearing your faith on your sleeve, and sharing the Good News.
Doing God’s dirty work means loving and serving others – serving others before serving ourselves. His will be done, not your own.
Being a handmaid for the Lord is not an easy task. Rather than become discouraged by our inability to fully imitate Mary, we can begin by taking small steps toward it.
When I was young, our family would occasionally stay at a hotel as we were traveling on vacation. Before we checked out, my Mom always made us clean up the rooms. We made the beds, wiped down the shower and sink, dusted everything off, etc. We – the kids – all moaned and groaned, “Why are we doing this? That is what the maids are for!”
My mom gave the same answer each time, “We should always leave things a little better than we found them.”
Perhaps that’s where we start, by doing our best to leave the world better than we found it.