Mk 10: 35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.”

Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but 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 a ransom for many.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Being Last

Recently I heard a story about a professor who was well-known by students for including unique extra credit questions at the end of her exams, like “what is the name of the person who empties out the trash in our classroom every Friday?”

Jesus tells us that whoever wishes to be great among us will be a servant to others. Do we notice the everyday people around us who help to serve us? If you work in a service industry yourself, do you feel noticed by the people you serve?

It’s surely a natural instinct to want to draw close to the great and powerful. You might find it easier to name the CEO of your company than the person who empties out the trash. So, we can be forgiving to James and John who ask to be seated at Jesus’s right and left in today’s Gospel.

The lesson Jesus offers to James and John extends to us as well. Whoever wishes to be great among us will be at the service of others. For Jesus himself did not come to be served but to serve. We, too, should follow that example, not necessarily with a change of profession, but at least with a change of heart. Can we find ways to help and serve others?

And instead of drawing close to the great and powerful among us, can we take time to get to know those in service around us? We might be surprised to find ourselves encountering Jesus in those very relationships. After all, that’s where he promised to be.

—Fr. Brian Strassburger, SJ, is a member of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province. He was ordained this summer and is helping to meet pastoral needs in the Rio Grande Valley on the U.S.-Mexico border.


With great devotion
and new depth of feeling,
I hope and beg, O God,
that it finally be given to me to be the servant
and minister of Christ the consoler,
the minister of Christ the redeemer,
the minister of Christ the healer,
the liberator,
the enricher,
the strengthener.
To be able, through you, to help many;
to console, liberate and give them courage;
to bring them light not only for their spirit
but also for their bodies;
and bring, as well, other helps to the soul and body
of each and every one of my neighbors.
I ask this through Christ our Lord.

—St. Peter Faber, SJ