Can you believe the sons of Zebedee in today’s Gospel? James and John boldly walked up to Christ and asked to be his right hand men in heaven. One to sit on his left and one to sit on his right. They sure had a lot of nerve in asking him for something like that. No wonder the other ten disciples got upset with them. Who did they think they were? More special than everyone else? Can’t you just picture the other disciples reaction to this? They are so self confident it is almost funny. The first thing Christ says is “You do not know what you are asking. “No kidding? The next thing Christ asks them is “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? “And of course they answer most assuredly “We are able”.
It makes you almost want to burst out laughing. These two disciples of Christ remind us a little like two young teenagers with their eyes on a fancy new car, or a newly wed couple who are looking to buy a mansion that they can’t afford. They have their eye on the prize they want, but without regard to their ability to pay for it. Many people today have champagne tastes on a beer budget too. Except in this case, James and John wanted a “spiritual prize” and for their eternal reward to be great in heaven.
These two disciples wanted to be set aside, as being a little more “special” than all the other disciples. This childish instinct is still at play in our world today too, in little ways and really big ways as well. Some of the little things we spend our money on to look a little better than others or be treated with more respect can be anything from manicures and pedicures, designer haircuts, expensive jewelry, custom made suits, fur coats and the list goes on. The little things can turn into big things like the biggest house on the block or even in the city. That’s just possessions. There are also many people that want to have a prominent place in society or become famous as an actor, musician or sports figure. These things in and of themselves are not bad, but if we desire these things in order to feel superior to others then it is wrong.
When was the last time, if ever, that you heard someone say they wanted to become a saint? Hopefully, most Catholics want to become a saint, but have enough humility to not go broadcasting that fact to all their friends and family. We know that our brothers and sisters in Christ want to become saints too. We would never have enough gall to go ask Jesus to snap his fingers and make us a saint. It’s not that easy. Christ sure had a lot of patience when he sat down to explain this to his disciples. “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant.” Can’t you imagine the shocked looks on their faces when he said the opposite of what they were hoping for?
That’s the irony of our faith. If it looks easy, then there’s a good chance you haven’t really paid attention to what you are doing. A good examination of conscience for an example shouldn’t be conducted while standing in line, two minutes before going in to the confessional. If you do that, you are only going to lightly touch on your sins. It’s amazing how many churches do not provide guides to confession for their parishioners either. That would actually be a way of serving other people, if your parish does not have guides to confession, then it would be an awesome act of service to go purchase some or have some printed and donate them to the church. This is a little thing, but it is a small way of serving your brothers and sisters in Christ. There are of course as many different ways to serve others as there are human beings in the world. That doesn’t really need an explanation.
We do have a really wonderful example of a “servant leader” right now. Yes, you guessed it. Pope Francis is an awesome servant leader and will no doubt greatly influence the Catholic church throughout the world, to put people before things and serve the needs of those around us instead. He’s totally awesome.
Maybe today, we can look for something to do for another person that is out of our usual routine or comfort zone. It could be as little as clearing a paper jam in a photocopy machine for someone at work, or teach someone how to use a computer, or something bigger like helping a child learn to read in a literacy program . There are so many people in our communities that need our assistance but it’s hard to get the word out to potential volunteers. You never know when you might change another person’s life for the better, just by checking out what people are in need of in your community. There’s an old saying that Christians should “bloom where they are planted”. Maybe we could work on that today.