When our eldest daughter was but a toddler, one of her pastimes was helping my wife with the laundry.
One day, as her mother passed her a wet sock for the dryer, she paused, gave her an approving look, and proudly proclaimed: “Mama, you’re a big helper!”
Much older now, she herself is a bigger helper than ever, in more ways than one. But alas, with age all of us seem to exhibit a diminished admiration for the title helper.
The most likely reason is entirely sound. As a daily reader of the Word (not to mention this blog), my daughter is no doubt familiar with our Lord’s injunction: “When you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants” (Lk. 17:10).
As we mature in intellect and faith, we come to see how “vain is the help of man” (Ps. 59:13). This would include the help we offer others, the help they offer us, and the help we offer ourselves.
In light of this, it would not seem prudent to aspire to the accolade “good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21), or to presume to bestow it upon others, until the coming of the Lord.
On the other hand, if the greatest spiritual maturity is to “become as little children” (Mt. 18:3), then perhaps my daughter’s youthful take on this subject has more to teach us.
In our pride, adults often recoil at the name “helper,” not from a sense of unworthiness, but as something beneath the dignity we aim at achieving. This presupposes a very worldly, and false, conception of human dignity.
Our Lord, whose perfection we are to imitate (Mt 5:48), is so far from disdaining the name “helper” that he makes it one of the chief titles by which we are to address him (Heb 13:6).
Consider the audacity of this prayer, placed by holy Mother Church at the head of each canonical hour, and dramatized so beautifully here by Antonio Vivaldi:
Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina: O Lord, make haste to help me! (Ps. 69:1)
Who would dream of telling God to hurry up, as if he were at our service, had he not implored us to do so?
Though we are unprofitable servants whose help is in itself vain, we must not forget that the one and only truly Big Helper chooses to help us, when we agree to help him help others.
“Through God we shall do virtuously” (Ps. 59:14). After begging God to hasten his aid, we should ourselves hasten to serve one another.
In doing so, we glorify the Father who makes our works profitable (Mt. 5:16), and we look forward to the day when the prince of helpers will bless us with a “never fading crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:5).
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