Friends, in today’s Gospel, the mother of James and John asks Jesus in their name that they might play leading roles in his kingdom. This Gospel reveals that the brothers are in a bad spiritual place. We have to move from the play that we are writing, directing, and starring into the play that God is directing.
To be fair to them, their request makes a certain amount of sense, as the Messiah was expected to be a new David, and David was a man of tremendous power and honor. Power is the capacity to get things done; without it, nothing of value would ever have been accomplished. Honor is a way of signaling to others something that’s worth noticing.
But James and John are asking for these two things in the wrong spirit. When the ego grabs power and honor for itself, things get dysfunctional very quickly. So what must we do? In other versions of this story, Jesus places a child in the midst of the Twelve, showing someone who had neither power nor honor. Here he simply says, “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”