Be the Greatest
(Posted October 14, 2021)
Quick now, without taking time to ponder, think of a person who has made a big, positive difference in your life.
Chances are the person you’re envisioning is someone who never in a hundred years would have felt a need to “blow their own horn.” As someone said to me today, “the really wonderful people in our lives are the ones who didn’t know how wonderful they are.”
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Position Yourself for Greatness
That’s a radical difference from the way that two of the apostles – James and John, sons of Zebedee, are talking in this Sunday’s Gospel. They have the gall to ask Jesus to make sure that he places them in his new kingdom in the seats of honor, to his left and right. Now, this scene is wrong on so many levels.
First is their misunderstanding of who Jesus is and why he has called them as disciples. THEY think he is going to be the new political Messiah, the one who overpowers the Roman Empire and restores might to Israel. That’s why they think that in the future James and John can get a “slice of the power pie” when Jesus rules, and be able to get the attention they crave to lord it over other people.
The Meaning of True Discipleship
Of course, Jesus has arrived not as a politician but as a spiritual messiah. He is not in the business of power brokering. Second, these two apostles completely miss the point of what it means call themselves disciples of Jesus. He tells them pointedly, “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
It's not at all about being top dog. It’s the task of being that unassuming person who helps another out of the goodness of their heart, without thought of compensation. Being “the GREATEST” is not about having our name up in lights. Being the “greatest” means flooding the hearts of others with God’s light – the only one who decides who the greatest truly are. The rest of Sunday’s readings help remind us of who God truly is.
We’ll spend some time looking at some extraordinary lives that have made a profound difference without any fanfare, or the desire for it.