THE TRUE AMBITION

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time          

            Last Sunday, we heard Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am?” Peter confidently exclaimed, “You are the Christ.” “You are the Messiah.” But Peter’s vision of the Messiah does not coincide with that of Jesus.

            Today’s gospel narrative shows how far the disciples are from realizing the real meaning of Jesus’ Messiahship. Jesus has repeatedly told them what awaits him in Jerusalem, and yet they are still thinking of his kingdom in earthly terms and of themselves as his commanders and ministers. Jesus is talking about his suffering and death and his disciples are discussing who is the greatest. That must have broken Jesus’ heart.

            When Jesus asks the disciples what they were arguing about, they remain silent – they are struck dumb. The disciples are embarrassed about their discussion. They do not really want Jesus to know.

            They are not that much different from us. We also do not want Jesus to overhear everything we say in private – idle talk, malicious gossip, mudslinging, whispering campaign, or character assassination. We do not want Jesus to watch everything we do in secret, behind closed doors, behind someone’s back – pursuit of selfish interests, treatment of subordinates, misconduct, dishonesty, illicit affair, illegal act, monkey business, or dealing with the devil. We do not want Jesus to see and read everything we write – anonymous letter, poison-pen letter, text message, comment, or post on social media, If we took everything and set it in the sight of Jesus, it would make all the difference in the world.

            Imagine the great embarrassment of the disciples upon hearing Jesus saying: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” William Barclay has this striking commentary: “It was not that Jesus abolished ambition. Rather, he recreated and sublimated ambition.” “For the ambition to rule, he substituted the ambition to serve.” “For the ambition to have things done for us, he substituted the ambition to do things for others.”

            We might think that the teaching of Jesus is too idealistic or too impractical – that it can never solve any of our problems that affect our daily lives. Pero kung totohanan lang nating isasabuhay ang diwang ito – diwa ng paghahangad na makapaglingkod sa kapwa sa halip na mapaglingkuran ng iba, diwa ng pagtingin sa pangangailangan ng kapwa sa halip na sa sariling kapakanan lamang – maraming problema ng mundo ang malulutas.

            Every economic problem would be solved if people lived for what they could do for others and not for what they could get for themselves. Every political problem would be solved if the ambition of people was only to serve the government and the taong-bayan and not to enhance their own prestige. The divisions and disputes which tear the Church asunder would be eliminated if the only desire of its leaders and members was to serve it without caring what position they occupied or without asking for recognition and promotion. When Jesus speaks of the supreme greatness and value of the person whose ambition is to be a servant, he lays down one of the greatest practical truths in the world. If we are seeking for greatness in God’s kingdom, we must find it, not by being first, but by being last; not by being masters, but by being servants.

            We should not be looking for recognition, appreciation, position, promotion, and acknowledgment. They come from a distorted sense of entitlement. Rather, we should be constantly asking ourselves: “What more can I do to be of greater service to others?” For Jesus, greatness comes from service, and service comes from humility.

            “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

            Let us end with a prayer: Lord Jesus, You showed us the way to greatness through Your footsteps of humble service and Your self-giving love on the cross. Give us the grace we need to be able to follow You by giving ourselves to others. Help us as we strive to love and serve our neighbor to the best of our ability. Amen.

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