Greatness in Selfless Service

Mark 10: 32-45
Sir 36:1.5-6.10-17 / Ps 79:8,9,11,13

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.
(Mark 10: 43-44)

The self-important are misled
To think that power leads to greatness,
If only they can see instead,
That to be great means to be selfless.

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way; they were amazed, while those who followed were afraid. Again He took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to Him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” He said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles, who will mock Him and spit on Him, flog Him and kill Him. Three days later He will rise.” Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” He asked them, “What do you want me to do for you?” They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:32-45)

Reflection

Three times our Lord foretold His death to His disciples. The first time was when He rebuked Peter (Mk.8:31). The second time was when they were arguing among themselves who was the greatest (Mk.9:31-35). And finally, before He instructed them (again) about the meaning of true greatness in reaction to the misplaced ambitions of James and John (Mk.10:33,43-45). And yet in all these times it seemed as if they were hardly listening, because they were too preoccupied with how they could advance their own self-interests.

First it was the impetuous Peter, the leader of the band who thought he was doing Jesus a favor by arguing against the divine plan (Mk.8:32). Then James and John, who were even more audacious with their request to corner the plum seats “in His glory”. These apostles had become too presumptuous about their exalted position, perhaps because they were the first three who were called to follow Jesus, and were given the special privilege of seeing Him transfigured, and hearing the voice of God on the mountain. These had made them feel that they were bound for greatness.

True greatness as Jesus teaches us can only be attained through the cross of Christ, and through genuine service. Being a servant and rejecting the values of this world may seem impractical or outmoded in today’s highly advanced and materialistic society, but the Word of God remains constant for all generations: to be first and greatest, we must be the last and the least. The way to greatness can only be through service and the rejection of all our attachments to this world. The way to greatness is through the little sacrifices we perform, like giving alms, visiting the sick or imprisoned, comforting the bereaved, helping build homes for the homeless, doing without to support a scholar – the list can go on and on. It’s all about selflessness, the opposite of the world’s view of greatness. To be selfless is “to empty ourselves out”, and in the process be filled up with God’s abundant blessings.

We seek to be Your leaders, Lord God, by serving others in our community. Grant that we may never be overcome by self-importance whenever we accomplish the mission You set out for us to do, for we are merely servants doing what is expected of us to do. Amen.

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