Our Lord, the Word of God, first gathered servants for God: later, he made them free men, as when he said: ‘No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.’ If you once set about loving God, his friendship will bring you immortality.
Therefore, it was not because God needed man that he first formed Adam; he was simply looking for recipients of his benefits. Not simply before Adam was made, but before any created being whatever existed, the Word was in the Father and gave glory to him, and the Word himself was glorified by the Father as he himself said…
When he told us to follow him, it was not that he needed our service but that he wanted to bestow salvation on us. To follow the Saviour is to share in salvation; and to follow the light is to perceive the light. Those who are in the light, do not themselves cause the light; rather are they lit up by it. They do not aid the light; they are aided, and illuminated, by it.
Similarly, our service to God does not mean that we provide him with anything for he does not need our submission. He gives life beyond death and eternal glory to those who follow and serve him. He does this for his servants because they serve him, for his followers because they follow him: he receives nothing in return. He is rich in everything; he is perfect; he needs nothing from us.
God seeks the service of man because, good and merciful as he is, he wishes to bestow blessings on those who persevere in his service. God stands in no need of anyone: but man stands completely in need of God.
This is man’s glory—to remain steadfast in God’s service. When the Lord said to his disciples, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you’, he implied that they did not give him glory in following him, but that because they did so, the disciples were glorified by him. So he says, in another place, ‘I wish that where I am, they also may be, so that they may see my glory.’
St Irenaeus [c.140—c.202], the second Bishop of Lyons, was in his youth a student of St Polycarp. This is an extract from his Adversus haereses quoted by the Church in the Office of Readings for today.