Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica without the public, while parish priests elsewhere in Rome led services from rooftops and bell towers.
The pope stated: “The tragedy we are experiencing summons us to take seriously the things that are serious, and not to be caught up in those that matter less, to rediscover that life is of no use if not used to serve others.”
He added, “Dear friends, look at the real heroes who come to light in these days: they are not famous, rich and successful people.” Instead, he said, “they are those who are giving themselves in order to serve others. Feel called yourselves to put your lives on the line.”
Then he urged us all: “May we reach out to those who are suffering and those most in need. May we not be concerned with what we lack, but what good we can do for others.”
God will use anyone who will be used
Pope Francis is right: the “real heroes” of this pandemic are “those who are giving themselves to serve others.”
They are the healthcare workers who risk themselves and their families by going into pandemic war zones each day to care for patients they have never met. They are grocery workers and delivery personnel who would be safer at home but who are working to keep us fed and cared for.
They are neighbors who are checking on neighbors, those with resources who are donating to those in need, those who are seeking ways to love others as themselves each day.
We will not know on this side of eternity all the ways that such service is changing our world.
In Acts 8, we find Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. This man was returning home from Jerusalem and was reading the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. These are indications that he was what they knew as a “God-fearer,” a Gentile who worshiped the God of Israel but had not become a full convert or proselyte.
The fact that he was a eunuch, most likely a man who had been emasculated so he could serve in the king’s harem and government, would have barred him from such full participation. He would not have been allowed even into the inner courts of the temple to worship.
It is significant, therefore, that he was reading from Isaiah when Philip found him. The prophet had foreseen this day: “Thus says the LORD: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me and hold fast to my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off'” (Isaiah 56:4–5).
God fulfilled this promise in this man’s case when he used Philip to lead him to faith in Jesus (Acts 8:34–38). As a result, the eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” (v. 39).
Philip never met this man again on this side of heaven, so far as we know. But the Ethiopian eunuch brought the good news back to his people. I have known many Ethiopian Christians over the years; they tell me that their church traces its history to this man and his missionary work in their country. They also believe theirs to be one of the oldest churches in all of Christendom as a result.
When we serve others in Jesus’ name, we cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness.
Who will encounter his love in your compassion today?