Gospel: Mt 20:20-28
Then the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favor. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?“ And she answered, “Here, you have my two sons. Grant, that they may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.“
Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?“ They answered, “We can.“ Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink my cup; but to sit at my right or at my left is not for me to grant. That will be for those, for whom my Father has prepared it.“
The other ten heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to him and said, “You know, that the rulers of nations behave like tyrants, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you: whoever wants to be great in your community, let him minister to the community. And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man, who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life to redeem many.“
Every mother understands and can identify herself with the mother of James and John who went to Jesus with a bold request for her sons. We cannot fault her for her worldly ambition; for wishing and wanting the best for her children. It is all very human. Mindful that even his disciples were nurturing the same aspirations, Jesus takes the occasion to teach them about the true meaning of greatness. The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige, status and position. For Jesus, however, greatness is measured in terms of service. It is determined by how many people you serve, not how many people serve you. More important than having leadership qualities, skills and education, is having the heart and mind of Jesus-the Suffering Servant of God. This is true because without the heart and mind of a servant, we can easily succumb to the temptation to abuse and misuse our power, position, talents, skills and education for personal gain. Pope Francis warns of the danger of careerism in Church especially among Church ministers. The common observation is that more than two thousand years after Jesus taught the disciples on servanthood, Christians today still jockey for position and prominence in Christian communities. More than ever we need to recall Jesus’ teaching that the way to greatness is humble service. Self-emptying leads to true richness.