One of the most shocking requests ever made of God is mentioned in Mark 10:35-45. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." Thinking back to my childhood, this would have been a marvelous arrangement with my parents. Just imagine, coming home from school, laying my books on the kitchen table, grabbing a glass of milk, then with a serious face saying to my dad, "Dad, I want you to do whatever I ask of you." Is this scenario a little backwards? Shouldn't it be, "Can I do anything for you, Dad?" I can't say that the latter was the way I regularly (actually never) greeted my father.In the gospel reading Jesus gives his two disciples the opportunity to ask of him anything. What was their request? They wanted to sit, one at his right hand and one on his left in glory. I imagine the Lord kindly covered a chuckle or two and proceeded to teach them the true meaning of greatness.
Why did the disciples make such a request? Could it be that they were viewing holiness in terms of authority over others? Could it be that they made the mistake of thinking that if they had authority, which is what a position next to the king indicates, they would be somebody important? We live in an age where positions and titles are very important to our self-esteem. When we are seen with people in authority or prestige it makes us feel important. In short, we are someone when we are next to someone who is really someone in our society.
Jesus teaches us that our identity with the king is not a matter of position or title, rather an attitude of servanthood. Jesus said, "You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Even being a priest or a deacon, which are considered an honored and esteemed positions in the Church, are at the service of the community and are described as Holy Orders configured to Christ, "who made himself the 'deacon' or servant of all" (CCC 1551, 1570). Pope John Paul II was without a doubt the most influential position in the Catholic Church, yet he saw himself as the servant of the people, living the paschal mystery to the very end. He traveled to more countries than any other pope in history; he made himself available to countless people; he spent hours and hours praying for the family of God. He continued in his service all the while working through physical pain and challenges. He along with others such as Mother Teresa, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Therese, and St. Padre Pio are considered the greatest in the Kingdom of God and each of their lives is marked by sacrificial service.
The greatest is the one who is most perfectly conformed to Christ the King, the greatest servant of all.
Something to think about:
If Mother Teresa were in the place of James and John, what do you think she would have asked for? What would you have asked for?
Who in your life would you consider great and why? Leave a comment.