“And the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through him.” We should hope that these words from the first reading today will be the epitaph of our lives because nothing better could be said of us. If God’s will is accomplished through us, we will have achieved the very thing for which we were born into this world. God’s will for every one of us is that God’s love, God’s goodness, God’s justice, patience, kindness, mercy, and compassion might break into the world each day through our attitudes, words, and actions. No matter how it happens, whenever God’s will is accomplished through us our lives glorify God.
Today’s gospel revolves around the question, “What does it mean to be important?” or “What does it mean to be great?” James and John, two of the apostles, want Jesus to assure them that they will sit, “’one at your right and the other at your left, when you come into your glory.’” Like us, James and John want to matter, they want to count. In responding to their request, Jesus turns our customary ways of thinking upside down. We typically connect greatness with being in the spotlight, with being recognized and esteemed above others. We think we matter when we can lord it over others and have the wealth and power necessary to do whatever we want. We want to be people who “make their importance felt.” Jesus subverts these assumptions when he tells his apostles (and all of us) that true greatness is about service, about expending ourselves for the sake of others. With Jesus, we matter not when others are serving us, but when we transcend ourselves in love, goodness, generosity, and kindness, each day doing what we can to bring others more fully to life.
If we do, the “will of the Lord” shall be accomplished through us and we shall truly be great.
Paul J. Wadell is Professor Emeritus of Theology & Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the Passionist Family.