He Did Not Come to be Served, But to Serve

10-17-2021Weekly ReflectionFr. Manasseh Iorchir, VC

According to the Gospel of St. Mark, Jesus predicted His passion, death and resurrection three times. He first did so after the confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi and Simon Peter’s response was to take Him aside and attempt to rebuke Him. The second time was as they passed through Galilee; the apostles could not understand Him, yet they responded by maintaining silence because they were afraid to question Him. The third and final prediction was on their way to Jerusalem. He took His disciples aside and revealed to them what awaited Him in the eternal city. This final prediction shares the same setting with, and in fact precedes, the events in the Gospel of today.

St. Mark records that after the third prediction, James and John (the Zebedee brothers) came to Jesus and requested: “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left”. Jesus told them they had no idea what they were asking for. He asked if they would be ready to drink from the “cup” He was to drink, or to be “baptised” with the baptism He was to receive. Obviously, they did not understand that this “cup” and “baptism” meant the agony of the Cross, yet they answered gleefully, “we can”. This despicable attitude of the Zebedee brothers, which infuriated the other apostles, revealed two things about them. First, they exhibited stark ignorance of the person of Jesus and the true nature and purpose of His mission. If only they knew that His kingship was not “of this world”, and that He was a servant leader to whom earthly status and political placements had no relevance, they would have been more prudent. Their insensitivity also exposed their deep-seated inordinate ambitions and their inherent tendency to cut corners in order to attain it. So vicious was their craving for political power, and the desire to be favored above others, that they were willing to fulfill whatever prerequisites Jesus would demand, including those they could not understand. They also did not care about how the other apostles felt about it. As the Zebedee brothers showed, it can be very easy for us to lose our humanity in our quest to be the best. We are often very willing and pleased to arrive at our goal even if it means hurting others on the way.

There is nothing wrong with having an ambition and pursuing it, but such an ambition should never be injurious to our conscience and should be pursued via a just means without being unjust to others. This is why Jesus recommends to us the servant leadership where the one who leads does so only by serving others.

May God grant us grace to purify and tame our ambitions, and may we be granted the true fulfillment that comes only after dutiful service to others. God bless you.

Fr. Manasseh