May 30, 2012
Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
By Colleen O'Sullivan
The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead
of them. They were amazed, and those who
followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve
aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and
the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and
they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock
him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for
you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right
and the other at your left.” Jesus said to
them, “You do not know what you are asking”…
Jesus summoned (the Twelve) and said to them, “You know that those who
are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great
ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant. For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:32-38a, 42-45)
O Loving Jesus, although you are the Son
of God, you humbled yourself and became a servant to all. I pray for the grace to follow your example,
to live a life of service to others.
How do we use power? What does it mean to be great? These are questions raised in today’s Gospel
As I was pondering Jesus’ words, I thought about
some of my work experiences. When I
first moved to the Washington area 22 years ago, I worked for a professional
services firm where the partners were all about power. Hardly a day went by in that office without
some great battle between two or more of them over turf and command. The partners were firmly in control and
didn’t want anyone beneath them to forget it.
They used people purely for their own gain. In fact, the other employees only counted
insofar as they were useful to the partners’ purposes.
Contrast that with the office I work in today, a
small trade association. I report
directly to the president and CEO, who, by virtue of his position, has
power. But he doesn’t flaunt his position. He doesn’t expect anything from anyone else
that he doesn’t expect from himself. He
treats his employees with respectful consideration. If he goes to the copier to get something he
printed, he’s not above picking up any jobs I’ve sent to it and bringing them
James and John might have fit in quite well in the
first office I described. They wanted
power and glory. They must not have heard a thing Jesus said about being a
suffering servant Messiah. Their friend
and leader is on the way to betrayal, torture, and execution and all they can
think about is the choice positions they would like in the kingdom of God. They want to be partners!
Oh, you will be partners, says Jesus, just not the
sort you are imagining. You will follow
in my footsteps and experience what I’m about to experience. If you really want to be great, he tells
them, you have to humble yourselves and be least of all. You have to be willing to reach out in love
and service to the sick, the poor, and the suffering.
I went on retreat during Holy Week. The image which keeps coming back to me is
the foot-washing during the Holy Thursday Mass.
I keep seeing the Son of God in the Upper Room, not counting “equality
with God a thing to be grasped,” but rolling up his sleeves, taking a cloth, a
basin and pitcher of water, kneeling down and lovingly washing the filthy,
stinky, cracked feet of his beloved friends, and then bending over and lovingly
kissing those feet.
When you have some time today, reflect on the
people who are your heroes in the faith.
I’d be willing to bet they aren’t people filled with their own
self-importance, but people whose greatness consists in their loving service to
their brothers and sisters.