Want to be Great?


    In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Mt 20: 17-18), our Lord makes His third prediction of His coming Passion and Resurrection.

    The sons of Zebedee and their mother seem to miss the gravity of what Jesus has said– the sacrifice and suffering that is to come in order that the Kingdom of God be established. They expect a kingdom of earthly power, and they would like positions of honor and influence in the royal palace– a throne up on the dais,  or perhaps a seat at the Cabinet table.

    The other ten disciples hear about this and complain: “Hey, what about us? “. They also think in terms of power and prestige. Our Lord corrects them:

    ” You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. “

    Day after day I come to realize more and more that membership in this Kingdom is about sacrifice, service, and humility. This is not a kingdom for lords or  “insiders ” ; it is a kingdom of serfs and outsiders.

  Some folks in our prayer group, which meets twice a week at the Passionist Monastery, tell me that I am ” leader “. When I find myself thinking that I actually am a leader, I start to stress about the meetings, lose my connection with God, get in a bad mood, and think of controlling others. When the Lord helps me realize that I am just another servant of the True Leader, when I let go and I am filled with humility and awe at the love and holiness of the suffering people in this group, it is only then that I begin to rejoice in the Grace that falls upon all of us as the prayer meeting takes on an organic life of its own  that makes the moment holy.

    When I lived in Florida, I belonged to a laymens’ group similar to Cursillo. Twice a year, under the auspices of the parish, more than fifty of us would put together a three day retreat of evangelization for men in search of God. The jobs of the coordinators, the organizers, the fund-raisers, and the presenters were vital to the retreats. But just as important were the jobs of  the cooks, table servers, furniture arrangers, and the clean-up crew.

    At one of the retreats there was a retreatant who had quit the priesthood and was looking for a way back to God. He was touched by the talks, the activities, and the witnesses that were humbly presented by us. But on the last day, when he was going to the bathroom, he ran into a young team member who was cleaning the toilets. As he worked, the smiling young man was singing religious songs with great abandonment and joy. The retreatant is once again a priest, and he attests that this encounter was the moment that sealed the deal for him. He felt the irresistible call of Jesus once again and his life was changed. This priest comes back every year to one of the retreats and serves in the clean-up crew.

    Richard Rohr quotes Catherine La Cugna :  ” God’s power comes through powerlessness and humility. The Christian God is much more properly called

all-vulnerable than almighty, which we should have suspected and intuited by the shocking metaphor ‘ Lamb of God ‘  found throughout the New Testament…..

If God is all-vulnerable, then perhaps God stands in solidarity with all pain and suffering in the Universe, allowing us to be participants in our own healing. This does not make sense to the logical mind but to the awakened soul it somehow does. “

Orlando M. Hernández

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