Sunday, July 24, 2005



JULY 25, 2005

Brothers and sisters: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that
the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in
every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always
carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of
Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are
constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the
life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at
work in us, but life in you. Since, then, we have the same spirit of
faith, according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we
too believe and therefore speak, knowing that the one who raised the
Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his
presence. Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in
abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to
overflow for the glory of God.

MATTHEW 20:20-28
The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and
did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, "What
do you wish?" She answered him, "Command that these two sons of mine
sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom."
Jesus said in reply, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you
drink the chalice that I am going to drink?" They said to him, "We
can." He replied, "My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my
right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for
whom it has been prepared by my Father." When the ten heard this, they
became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said,
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the
great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so
among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your
servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just
so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give
his life as a ransom for many."

Today is the feast of St. James, a.k.a Santiago, brother of John, one
of Zebedee's sons. He was present at the Transfiguration and most of
Jesus' miracles. He was the first disciple to be martyred, around the
year 42AD.

The martyrdom of St. James is significant in light of today's
Gospel. Whereas he was the first of the apostles to be martyred, he
was also one of those who dared to ask Jesus for a special place in the
kingdom. Recall that James and John, accompanied by their mother,
approached Jesus and asked that they be seated on Jesus' right and left
when Jesus reigns in his kingdom. They were asking for places of
honor, the best seats in the house, but Jesus could only ask them in
response, "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" James and John
answered in the affirmative, and indeed, like Jesus, James died for his

There is something in us that wants to be given importance. We feel
good when we are praised or affirmed, and rightly so. But sometimes we
start doing things for the sake of being praised. While this is a very
human impulse, Jesus turns the table on us and says that "anyone who
wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants
to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came
not to be served but to serve...."

Here we have in summary Jesus' radical idea of servant leadership. To
be great is not to be recognized or acknowledged as such, but to be a
humble servant. To be first is not to get ahead of all the others, but
to be their slave. This goes against the wisdom of the world. Even
when we try to be servant leaders, people can still praise us for it,
and that's fine as long as our motivations are clear. Besides, those
moments of praise and adulation do not last. In the end, servant
leadership is a lifestyle, something we try to
do day in and day out, especially when no one is looking. It is to
fulfill our daily duties and commitments with humility and love, even
when we are not appreciated for it. At times we may even be persecuted
or ridiculed for our commitments. At times we may have to swallow our
pride for the sake of the greater good.

Let us be like James. Let us acknowledge our all too human feelings of
self-importance, and then learn to be humble servants of the Lord.

"Lord Jesus, make me a servant of love for your kingdom, that I may
seek to serve rather than be served. Inflame my heart with love that I
may give generously and serve joyfully for your sake."

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