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Friends, in today’s Gospel, James and John ask Jesus to place them in high places in his kingdom. They are asking for two of the classic substitutes for God: power and honor. Power is not, in itself, a bad thing, and the same is true of honor. Thomas Aquinas said that honor is the flag of virtue. It’s a way of signaling to others something that’s worth noticing.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that they are asking for these two things in the wrong spirit. The ego will want to use power not for God’s purposes or in service of truth, beauty, and goodness but for its own aggrandizement and defense. When honor is sought for its own sake or in order to puff up the ego, it becomes dangerous as well.

So what’s the way out? “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” When you serve others, you are accessing the power of God and seeking the honor of God.