There is a very human and warm Gospel passage-1 in today’s Mass. The mother of the sons of Zebedee, (James and John) asks Jesus that her two sons be allowed to sit at His right and left side. Isn’t this really a very natural and motherly trait, wanting the best for her children and willing to do anything to help them?

But, Jesus turns to them and tells them that they don’t realize what is necessary for them to do to accomplish what they are asking. “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” These words echo down through the ages to all of us. What are we willing to do, to tolerate, to endure for the prize? Very often we want the accolades, the notoriety, and the fame. We want our lives to be comfortable, not plagued with difficulties. We want to be recognized and seen as someone special. But what makes someone special? Jesus tells us bluntly, “…Whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be your slave”.

Well there it is the formula that gains the prize. How simple is that? We cannot covet the accolades, the notoriety or the fame. This is not the way to the prize. This is not why Jesus came into this world, to teach us to strive for success and glory. How many times, how many ways does Jesus warn us with His words and Life, not to seek out the first position but the last? He goes on to tell them, “…that even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” (I think it rather humorous that the other Apostles became indignant at James and John. They probably wanted those prized positions for themselves??)

If we are honest with ourselves, if we view our lives without those rose colored glasses, we see how picky and trite we can be. We look at people who are different from us and … look away. The unwashed, the dirty, the people who wear their clothes differently than we would, the people who don’t act the way we think they should, all of these we look down our noses at. We judge them to be problems. But, we don’t judge our problems. Who are we that we can treat them with little or no concern? Are we not all struggling to live our lives with a sense of decency and goodness? Ahh.. There is the problem! We don’t judge ourselves. We don’t do any introspection of ourselves. We don’t critically look at our way of life. So, how can we possibly see that our lives are struggling to achieve decency and goodness, if we don’t look critically at our actions, our motives, and our judgments?

Jesus wants us to follow Him. He has shown us the way. But before we can make that first step along His path, we have to place our trust and love in Him. We must love Him enough; trust Him enough that we can face our weaknesses. It is only through Him that we gain the freedom to accept ourselves, with our failings. It is only through Him that we gain the courage to judge ourselves and see ourselves as we are. Then, and only then, in seeing our own frailty and knowing that He still loves us, do we realize that all the people that we meet, ALL of them are loved and struggling. What we do then is….

-1 (Matthew 20: 17 – 28)