Posted by: shawnjohnston | September 10, 2007


This past weekend was my first Conclave, as well as the first time meeting several members of my the AJC face to face. It was a joy and an honour to watch two of my brothers be raised to Deacon, it was incredibly validating to finally meet my bishop, and it was a pleasure to strengthen relationships that had already been made.

During the Mass/Ordination marathon, +Mar Iohannes spoke to us about service which led to a later conversation with one of Father Jordan’s+ parishioners. I spent some time pondering not only my bishop’s words but this conversation as well during my long ferry ride home.

There are many forms of service and I always find it odd that most people almost always, and often unconsciously, equate it to “seeing to another’s needs”. I have also often noticed that when one enters or practices this type of service with altruistic intentions, they often find themselves in a position of subjugating their own needs for that of the person they are trying to “serve”.

It is a noble intention indeed to sacrifice your own needs and desires for the well-being of another. Blessed are they that willingly seek out these opportunities to help those around them, but in some ways this can also be a bit misguided as well. It is completely natural for a sense of resentment to build up over time when one is practicing this form of service to others, particularly when this is being offered to the same individual time and again with little apparent affect. For example if you have dedicated your capacity for service to help a friend who is in a bad place or has made a series of bad decisions.

Does resenting someone you have altruistic and helpful intentions towards make you a bad person? Absolutely not. It makes you human. All but the very greatest of us ever totally transcend the little voice of our ego and without constant mindfulness and attention towards the keeping of our “little self” in it’s place and proper context, our ego can and will re-assert itself in our daily psyche. The Demiurge and the Archons aren’t sneaky and subtle and ruthless in our Gnostic myths for nothing!

Serving someone in this capacity could be considered an exoteric form, or literal understanding of the notion of service. I often come back to Jesus’ teaching of the plank in my own eye vs. the speck in my brother’s eye. Our intention to serve another will often naturally lead to attempting to help them with their problems. It is a beautiful thing to find compassion for another’s suffering, in fact it is in many ways a very necessary step in our journey towards spiritual maturity. But one of the most profound understandings I have realized in my own journey and in my own altruistic intentions with those around me is, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Sometimes the best way to “help” someone is to let them know you are there for them when they need you and to just leave them alone.

If you are neglecting the plank in your own eye, then it is increasingly easy for your compassionate intentions to another to turn into resentment and frustration as you watch them to continue to choose the path of suffering, despite all you are trying to tell them and all that you are trying to do for them. By being there for them as a resource rather than as an intervention, you are providing support to them in a more subtle way. It may, even unconsciously, provide that person with a measure of security to know that they have a place to turn.

By resolving your own shadows and quieting our own internal spaces, we are then able to better allow that internal work to shine forth to our external reality. We can become an oasis of calm, love, peace and compassion and in this way we can serve not only those closest to us but anyone we come in contact with. Our positive energy and aura can also pour into the Universe as well and provide a service to all sentient beings. A thimble full of water added to the ocean raises the water level, even if it’s infinitesimal.

Jesus spoke in parables to make us work for understanding, for it is the journey that teaches, not the answer. An answer is easily forgotten all by itself but the milestones of a journey are branded indelibly on our soul and they provide a needed context for us to truly appreciate the profundity of the answer. But more profound than his words was the example he made of his life. Even if he spoke no words to us all, it was all there to be learned by the example he provided us patterned in his everyday approach to life. As gnostics, we understand this also on an even deeper level, realizing that our own path to salvation from ignorance and liberation from suffering lies in following this example and becoming Christ-like ourselves.

Buddhists from the beginning have understood this, Mystics through the ages have understood this. By removing the plank from our own eye we will see more clearly the way to remove the speck from our brothers eye. We will see that by removing that plank, by resolving internally our shadows, we provide a real and tangible example for others to follow, and that the real point from the beginning was that the speck we saw in their eye was in fact simply and profoundly nothing other than a reflection of the plank in our own.

This, in my opinion, is the definition of service and the highest calling we could find in our lives today.


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