James and John in today’s Gospel are on a different wavelength than Our Lord: Jesus has just told them of his impending Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and all they are thinking of is the glory and the share of the glory they’ll receive. Jesus warns them that they are not on the Christian wavelength of glory: it is through the Cross that we achieve the only glory that matters–serving and pleasing God in gratitude for all he has done for us.
James and John are on the wavelength of ambition; Jesus is on the wavelength of service. In the exercise of authority it is very easy to switch from one to the other, usually in the direction of ambition, which is driven by self-interest either to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of others. James and John’s ambition provokes an immediate reaction from the other disciples: they know ambition when they see it and see their ambitions being infringed upon as well. When Jesus asks James and John whether they are prepared to receive the same baptism as him, and drink the same chalice, he is asking them whether they’re ready to suffer. In the end they will, to their credit: James was beheaded, as the Acts of the Apostles recalls, and John was exiled and imprisoned and, according to tradition, miraculously survived an attempt to execute him. But Jesus also touches on the key to not switching from the wavelength of service to ambition: recognizing that if you seek any place or path for your life, it should be out of a desire to serve, and, ultimately, you don’t have a right to it. Even Jesus himself takes the place and the path willed by the Father, and he does so as an example to us.
Let’s strive today to seek the place and path for our lives where we can best serve others, not just ourselves.
Readings: Sirach 36:1, 4–5a, 10–17; Psalm 79:8–9, 11, 13; Mark 10:32–45.