True honor earned through placing ourselves last

      Jockeying for position, we’ve all experienced it. While I’ve never been one to indulge in the day after Thanksgiving Black Friday madness, I’m told it’s all about that jockeying for position. Waiting in the dark and cold for hours at a time brings immense pleasure to the one who ends up as the first to enter the store rather than, let’s say, ninth or tenth. You certainly might think of other examples: concerts, check-out counters, movies, parking spots, etc.

      In the end it’s all about who can claim to be first because, somehow in our minds, it brings honor and makes us seem like the best, no matter how trivial. Isn’t it reminiscent of a time when we raced to be the first to cross the finish line on the school playground, or scurrying to arrive at the water fountain before others?

      What is the reward of achieving that much sought after position? Why do we find pleasure in the smallest of such conquests?

      Being first gives us the chance – consciously or unconsciously – to “lord it over others.” Seriously, can we say we do it because it’s important in the grand scheme of things or that it is ultimately for the good of all? Rarely, if ever. We are driven to be first most often, I would dare say, because we simply feel we deserve it.

      We seem to have such a situation in this week’s Gospel (Mk 10:35-45). Apostles James and John approach Jesus and boldly state (I love this line!): “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Doesn’t that remind you of a young child, still in the throes of entitlement, talking to a parent?

      In the say way a parent might, Jesus mildly, yet perhaps somewhat amused, asks what it is they want.

      Seats of honor, they reply. When Jesus comes to his glory in heaven, James and John want to be seated, each on either side of the Lord. Hey, you’ll never know if you don’t ask!

      I can easily imagine Jesus heaving a big sigh before patiently answering: “You do not know what you are asking.”

      There is depth on many levels in this Gospel, but after reading and reflecting on it for several days, this is what I came away with this time around.

      Not unlike children, we tend to want what we want, when we want it…just because.

      We pray, telling God what we want, but do we stop to consider if, as Jesus asks, we “can drink the cup” he drinks? Jesus reminds his disciples that “…whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” If we hope to come out a winner, we must be willing to come in last – in humility, to practice servant leadership.

      If we seek the honor of greatness, we must be willing to be of service to others…to be last. Wow, that goes contrary to what modern culture now tells us.

      One day, when I enter heaven, would I be thrilled to take a seat at Jesus’s right? You bet! We all would. But we need to constantly remind ourselves not to put the cart before the horse. There’s much work to be done to earn a position of honor beside the Most High. We need to ask ourselves if we are willing to “drink the cup?” Do we willingly suffer the many trials that come as a condition of life? Are we  mindful of the need to work for the good of others?

      In the acceptance of that cup, there is found and cultivated the love that God plants at the very core of our existence.        


     Debbie Bosak is the editor and general manager of Northwest Indiana Catholic Publications and a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Merrillville. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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