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By Fr. Joseph, MIC (Mar 11, 2009)
Readings: Jer 18: 18-20; Mt 20:17- 28
"Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave." Mt 20:26-27
Many people desire to do great things in life. This is not being arrogant or conceited. Rather, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, aspiring to greatness is a sign of virtue. What is important is that we understand what Jesus means by greatness.
Notice that in today's Gospel, Jesus does not condemn the desire of the mother in seeking great things for her sons, James and John. He is the one who actually draws out her desire by asking what it is that she wants.
In purifying this desire for great things, however, Jesus does two things. The first is that Jesus challenges James and John by asking if they are willing to drink from the same cup as He. In effect, Jesus asks them if they are willing to pay the price for the great position of authority that they aspire to in the kingdom. The second thing He does is identify for His apostles the authentic nature of authority and greatness. He says that we are to use authority in serving the needs of our fellow man.
The saints are those who have best understood this teaching. It was the late John Paul II who wrote about the feast of the Queenship of Mary that Mary reigns now in heaven because she served God so faithfully on earth. Saint Faustina is another example. She wrote in her Diary that she would rather be a "lowly drudge in the convent than a queen in the world" (254).
Jesus teaches us today to focus our hearts on the true nature of what is means to be great. Greatness is not to be found in the attaining of power. Rather, great is the one who exercises authority in the service of God and neighbor.
Lord Jesus, shape my heart after the generosity of Your saints. Purify my desires that I, too, may pay the necessary price of greatness in sacrificing myself for the needs of others. Teach me to be a servant. Amen.