No matter how hard they tried, the disciples struggled with daily temptations and their own human weaknesses. James and John were no exception, sparking a storm of indignation among the rest of the disciples when they asked Jesus if He could reserve places of honor for them in His glory. Their request must have seemed presumptuous and prideful at best, yet Jesus did not condemn them. Instead – and how beautiful that our Lord is able to sympathize with our weaknesses! (cf. Heb 4:15) – He took the opportunity to teach them. “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:43-35). What a dramatically different idea this was from the disciples’ vision of Christ as king and ruler!
The life of a Christian is characterized by our desire to imitate Jesus, to serve as He served. Although we strive to imitate His example of humility, like James and John, at times we allow our own sense of pride and self-importance to creep into our daily lives and actions. An image that may help us to grow in humility is to think of ourselves as the donkey that had the honour of carrying Jesus on His triumphal entry into the streets of Jerusalem.1 Cardinal Luciani, who later became Pope John Paul I, remarked:
“When I am paid a compliment, I must compare myself with the little donkey that carried Christ on Palm Sunday. And I say to myself: If that little creature, hearing the applause of the crowd, had become proud and had begun – jackass that he was – to bow his thanks left and right like a prima donna, how much hilarity he would have aroused!”2
As disciples, we desire only to be simple instruments to carry Christ to others. If we turn to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help us to become more like Him, we can be certain that He will give us all of the mercy and grace necessary to help us in our time of need.
– Sharon van der Sloot
1 Cf. Fr. Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, vol. 5 (London: Scepter Publishers, 2003), 271.
2 Ibid, 271-272; quoted from A. Luciani, Illustrissimi, 50.