Daily Reflection
February 27th, 2002
Maureen McCann Waldron
Collaborative Ministry Office
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Jeremiah 18:18-20
Psalm 31:5-6, 14, 15-16
Matthew 20:17-28

“Greatness” in our world is defined in many ways these days, from political power, to endless wealth, from instant celebrity recognition to an Olympic gold medal.  For many of us, we grapple with middle age, realizing that we will not reach the “greatness” we may have dreamed of in our youth.  Wealth, celebrity and power have not come to us.

“Anyone among you who aspires to greatness…”

But in today’s gospel, Jesus defines “greatness” very differently, and in a way that is open to each one of us, at any stage of our lives.  We see Jesus today, with his closest friends, the twelve apostles.  They have been with him and traveled with him everywhere, listening to his teachings, sharing meals with him and watching him heal the sick and work miracles.  They have listened as he spoke of his “Kingdom” and they have pledged their loyalty to him.

“Anyone among you who aspires to greatness…”

In this gospel we watch a fascinating moment as James and John, two of Jesus’ closest friends, strive for their version of greatness.  I always picture these two brothers as high-spirited characters who make Jesus laugh and earned them a nickname from him: Sons of Thunder.  

But now Jesus takes his twelve aside and tells them what is in store, the passion and death that await, followed by the resurrection.  There is a hush and then the group walks on again slowly, in stunned silence.  Just then, the mother of James and John makes her appearance, this doting, indulgent woman who has heard from her boys about the Kingdom.  She nudges Jesus to the side and wants to know if they can make a deal: can her boys get a good spot in this kingdom?  

She hadn’t listened to what he was really saying, none of the twelve got it either.  In the moments after Jesus’ heartfelt disclosure to his most intimate friends, the friends are bickering about who’s going to get the best spot in this kingdom.

“Anyone among you who aspires to greatness…”

But Jesus, with great patience and compassion, calls them together and tries to make it as clear as he can:  “Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest…”  In this topsy-turvy kingdom of his, Jesus tell us that those who serve, who embrace humility and service will be “great.” 

And from somewhere deep in the silence of my heart, I feel the longing to serve as we are called. I have a sense that by serving instead of being served, I would be even happier. I would be doing what Jesus is drawing me to: service, and a more intimate relationship with him.  

But how do I serve when I spend so much of my life, like James and John, jockeying for the best spot, the recognition, the honors, the “greatness” our world proclaims?  Why do I feel like it would be easier to serve in some place other than my daily life?  

Dear Jesus, once again I come to you humbled.  I live my life as if I was strong and independent and not in need of you.  Help me to see what you want and to depend on you.  Help me to see the poor in my everyday life.  I want to open my eyes to those who are in pain, who take my time, who need my compassion.  I want to answer your soft, persistent call for me to serve but it’s so hard to hear it in the clamor of my busy and “successful” life.  I can only do this with your help.  Be with me.  Show me the way.  Thank you for this invitation.

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