Vocation Meditation -
October 18, 2009
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." And Jesus said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory."
But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They replied, "We are able."
Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.
So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
This is a revealing story of how ambition got hold of the apostles, James and John. They had failed to understand Jesus' standard of greatness. Jesus offered them two ways to be great like Him. They must first accept to drink of the 'cup' of experiences that God has in store for Him, the cup of God's will for the world. Secondly, they must be submerged as it were, to experience bearing the cross as Jesus did for our sake. Jesus was plainly telling them that without the cross there can never be a crown of greatness.
Jesus knew by the question of James and John on ambition, that if the fellowship of the apostles has to endure the test of time, all of the apostles must take Jesus' test of greatness. Jesus made them see that in the kingdom of the world, the standard of greatness was power. In the kingdom of God instead, the standard was loving service. Greatness is not reducing others to one's service, but in reducing oneself to their service.
Jesus' example to His apostles pointed to no other but Himself. All His powers and everything that He is, He spent for the service of God and others. His self-giving reached its height on the cross-selfless, total, winning the prize of salvation. His standard of greatness then is the standard of service - meant for His apostles and for all.
"Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant."
Am I willing to take the extra mile of service to walk along the path of true greatness?
Ambition to power oftentimes leads me to seek the first place, to seek honor and prestige. Today, you taught me to find greatness in service instead of in being served. I want to follow You, making Jesus' mission my own. Allow me to drink the 'cup' of doing Your will the way Jesus did it: humbly, obediently, lovingly spending my life for others. Amen
For the full Gospel reading for this Sunday, visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops site.