“Lord, teach me to be generous; Teach me to serve you as you deserve; To give and not to count the cost; To fight and not to heed the wounds; To toil, and not to seek for rest; To labor, and not to ask for reward - except to know that I am doing your will.” ― St. Ignatius of Loyola
(Gospel Text: MT 20:17-28)
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem,
he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves,
and said to them on the way,
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests
and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death,
and hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and scourged and crucified,
and he will be raised on the third day.”
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her, “What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left,
this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
If we are honest, many of us will admit that we have a natural tendency to dominate or subjugate things and people, to command and to order, to have things done as per our wishes, to have others accept our status, our position. But, now, Jesus is proposing to us just the opposite: «Whoever wants to be more important in your group shall make himself your servant» (Mt 20:26-27).
The II Vatican Council asserts for us «that man achieves his prime of life through dedication and commitment to others».
When reflecting upon that statement one word stands out to me: humility. It is a rare artifact in today’s society, especially when we live in an age of boastfulness, power struggles and the need to be the “alpha” among your peers. In fact, sometimes we may even define our life by the need for acceptance and to become the best in whatever it is we are pursuing. Yet Jesus went in the opposite direction from the rest of us.
What are my attachments to pride, authority, power and how can I channel my energies and talent in the best service of the kingdom of God?
Let today’s opportunities be a reminder that true power does not come from boasting rights, our accomplishments and our egos. It comes from humility, the willingness to love, and the knowledge that we were each made with specific plans, with individual wonders and talents, and with God’s abundant love. Humility creates passion, relationships and helps us to connect with the truly humble man who once walked on this planet.
Fortunately I need only humbly look to Jesus as a model as he reminds us: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:28)
What a gift and an inspiration.