Jer 18:18-20; Matt 20:17-28
The Request of James and John
Famed psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Menninger once gave a lecture on mental health, after which someone from the audience asked him what he would suggest that a person do in the event of a suspected impending nervous breakdown. Everyone thought that Dr. Menninger would advice as a preventive measure a visit to a psychiatrist. Instead he replied: “Lock up your house, go to other side of the railroad tracks and find people in need. Then do something to help. Immerse yourself in the lives of others.” I’m sure this is the sure cure for a nervous breakdown, boredom and other not so good feelings.
In today’s gospel, the other apostles are indignant of James and John because their mother, on behalf of her two sons, requests Jesus that her two sons will sit at His left and right. In the gospel of St. Mark (10:35), instead of a mother interceding for her sons, James and John themselves plead for their own request. Sad to say, the apostles get angry with these two not because of disappointment but because, we can find in other gospel passages, that they have the same ambition with these two. And James and John request Christ ahead of them.
Jesus shows us His example on how to be truly great and that is by serving others and giving Himself totally to us. We are called to do the same in our lives and by doing so we can love Him more. Let us reflect the following statements taken from the teaching of Jesus:
First, we are great when we serve. When Pope John Paul II died, so many people-pilgrims were coming together to see the body of this late Pope and this impressed me. The Pope suffered so greatly both physical and moral in the last years of his life. He served the Church and his God well and had brought a totally new face to the papacy. Many are already calling him “the Great.” He is great, as somebody said, not only because of what he wrote, the speeches he gave and the incredible feats he accomplished as Pope. He is great because he truly took to heart this gospel passage and served his brothers and sisters.
Second, let us go out from our comfort zone. God asks to serve others and put ourselves, last. It is not that we have to do any spectacular feat of virtue or give our lives for Christ in martyrdom. He asks only that we look out for the good of others before our own. Somebody said that we must force ourselves to serve those around us and bring Christ to them through our humble service. Sometimes this service can be as simple as a smile, a kind word or a charitable act. In serving others we can be truly fulfilled. This is what Christ means by being the last and servant of all.
At the end let us reflect this true story told by J.K. Laney, Marching Orders (p.34) which I’m sure speaks to us about serving others. The great violinist, Niccolo Paganini willed his marvelous violin to city of Genoa on condition that it must never be played. The wood of such an instrument, while used and handled, wears only slightly but when set aside, it begins to decay. Paganini’s lovely violin has today become worm-eaten and useless except as a relic.
The moral of the story is that this invites us to reflect that if we are unwilling to serve we may soon destroy our capacity for usefulness.