17th October 2021
SEEK FIRST SERVICE NOT HONOUR
The manager of a business company died. During the funeral, an ambitious employee boldly approached the president of the company and asked, “Sir, now that the manager is dead, can I take his place?” He was obviously referring to the position of a manager. But the big boss was thinking about another thing. He replied, “Oh, yes, of course. There is no problem with me. But we will have to ask the permission of the funeral director if he will allow you to take the place of the deceased.”
Ambition is a human trait that fuels people to excel, to improve and even surpass their present status. St. Irenaeus said: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” It means that man has to develop his God‐given potentials, and should never be an under achiever, which is the fruit of a capital sin, sloth. Ambition, if healthy, helps man to achieve his potentials for the service of man, and for the glory of God
The brothers, James and John were definitely ambitious. They wanted to have the most favoured positions in the kingdom of Jesus. But the other disciples were equally ambitious, for they resented the request of the two brothers. Peter must have felt insulted and threatened, being the designated “Rock” of the Church. But Jesus did not outrightly condemn the ambition of his followers. The request of the two brothers and the resulting indignation of the rest in the group simply highlighted the truth that they have not learned the lesson on discipleship. Prior to this account, Jesus was teaching them about true greatness when he placed in their midst a little child. Then he continued talking about his forthcoming sufferings and death on the cross. But still, they were discussing about who is the greatest among them
Instead of castigating them about their apparent inability to understand, coupled with their ambition, Jesus took the opportunity to teach them about the true and proper object of ambition, namely, the search for authentic greatness. The key to greatness is
1. service: “let the greatest among you be the servant of all.”
2. humility: “Unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”
3. A high position is secondary. In fact, it is very dangerous: “He who exalts himself shall be humbled; he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
4. A position of power and prestige is not to be sought for itself, and definitely not for pride and selfish ambition. If ever, it is to be sought solely as an opportunity to be of better service. St. Augustine, when appointed as Bishop of Hippo, told the people: “With you, I am a Christian; but for you, I am a bishop.” He reminded himself and others that basically, there is equality among us – we are all followers of Christ. But in order to serve the welfare of
the community, someone must lead them – a servantleader.
The ultimate model of true service and greatness is no less than Jesus himself: “For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many.” This statement he reiterated by example during the Last Supper when he bent down on each of his apostles and washed the feet of each one. Then he said: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:1415). And according to the example of Jesus, true service is not just giving something, but giving everything, even to the point of self‐sacrifice: “to give his life as a ransom for the many.”
“Can you drink the cup that I drink?” This is an Old Testament metaphor for accepting one’s destiny as assigned by God. The baptism that Jesus is talking about has reference to his rejection, sufferings and death. Jesus said that his followers will have to drink the cup and have this baptism – meaning to say, they will follow him all the way, including his destiny of sufferings and death as ransom for the many. He is, therefore, talking about discipleship – it is a serious matter which involves readiness to sacrifice and even to die for Jesus. There was no mention about position, power and prestige. Discipleship of Jesus, on the contrary, talks about powerlessness, sacrifice and sufferings.