Ambition of James and John
I’m sure you are very much familiar with this church hymn which has a line like this: “We are made for service to care for all men.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta is an example for those people who serve others because she imitated the Lord who ‘came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45). We are told that when Mother Teresa was engaged in picking up the dying and caring for them, a journalist commented: “Not even for a million dollars would I do a job like that!” Mother Teresa responded: “Neither would I.” But the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta did it out for her love of the Lord.
In today’s gospel James and John requests Jesus that one of them will sit at his right and the other at His left when, He will reign in His Kingdom. But St. Matthew (20:20) edits the story and have their backer, the most influential woman in their lives, their mother who make the embarrassing request. The other ten apostles get angry at these two (v. 41) not because of disappointment with their ambition but because they have similar ambition and these two have got ahead of them. So Jesus calls them together and teaches them of a lesson on ambition and greatness. It is because they focus their attention on the power they foresee themselves possessing in the new kingdom rather than on the pain that will accompany the service they will be expected to give to others. Jesus’ measure of greatness is very simple: the service a disciple offers to others. He says: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all,” (vv. 43-44). And Jesus is our model (v. 45).
This is also true to us. The measure of our greatness is not based on the power we have but it is based on the service we render to other people. Maybe we should ask ourselves a question about the kind of service we give to other people. Are we actually engaged in giving service to others? Do we involve ourselves personally with those to whom we are giving service? Or are we like those political candidates during elections who claim, ‘I want to serve the people and the country?’ Service is their slogan. May be they are just responding to the call of Jesus: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant….”
But in reality we doubt whether they are really after genuine service. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Imagine for example, last 2007 election a husband and a wife fighting for the same position; a son against father, a brother against brother and so on and so forth. Almost entire families are running for various elective positions. A priest said in his homily that maybe they are just imitating the two brothers, James and John, who want to “sit one at your right and the other at your left when you are in your glory.”
At the end, somebody sent me this text message for us to reflect too: “Good life formula: ADD Jesus to your life; SUBTRACT all your fears; MULTIPLY your good deeds; DIVIDE your blessings with others; EQUALS a WONDERFUL LIFE.”