On the road to Jerusalem, Jesus goes about warning his disciples about the painful destiny that awaits him and those who follow his footsteps. The cluelessness of those who accompany him is incredible. This keeps happening still today.
James and John, sons of Zebedee, leave the group and come alone to Jesus. They don’t need the others. They want to occupy the most privileged seats and be the first in Jesus’ project, as they imagine it. Their petition isn’t an asking but rather a ridiculous ambition: «We want you to do us a favor». They want Jesus to place them above the others.
Jesus seems to be surprised. «You do not know what you are asking». They haven’t understood anything. Very patiently Jesus invites them to ask themselves if they are capable of sharing his painful destiny. When the other ten disciples realize what’s happening, they get mad at James and John. They too have the same aspirations. Ambition divides and confronts them. The honor-seeking and self-interested initiatives always break the communion of the Christian community. Even today. What could be more opposed to Jesus and his project of serving the liberation of all peoples?
The event is so serious that Jesus «called them to him» in order to make clear what is the attitude that should always characterize his followers. They know well enough how the Romans act, «rulers of the peoples» and «great ones» of the world: they tyrannize the people, oppress them and make them all feel the weight of their power. Okay, «among you, this is not to happen».
Among his followers, everything must be different: «Anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all». Greatness isn’t measured by the power one has, the rank one occupies or the titles one flaunts. Whoever covets these things in Jesus’ Church doesn’t become greater but more insignificant and ridiculous. In reality, it’s an obstruction to promoting the style of life that the Crucified wants. Such a person lacks the basic mark of being Jesus’ follower.
In the Church we must all be servants. We need to place ourselves in the Christian community, not from the top, from superiority, power, or self-interested initiatives, but from below, from openness, service and helping others. Our example is Jesus. He never lived «to be served but to serve». This is the best and most admirable summary of what he was: service to all.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf