Thursday, October 15, 2009

Downward Mobility vs. Upward Mobility

Twenty Ninth Ordinary Sunday Year B

We humans are ambitious creatures. From a young age, we would have begun to fantasize the size and brand of our car, the type of house that we would want to live in, the amount of money that we would make. Once we have arrived at our goals, it just doesn’t feel enough. We want more. We want something better. We want to reach the sky. And in case, we are not able to fulfill our ambitions in our lifetime, we will then expect our children to fulfill those ambitions on behalf of us.

In today’s gospel, we see how the disciples of Jesus were also men of ambition. The two brothers, James and John approached Jesus and asked him for a favour, that is the honour to sit on his right and his left when Jesus comes to glory. The other disciples who heard the brothers’ request became envious of them too. Ambition has begun to erode the relationship of the disciples to one another and to Jesus too. Ambition had blinded them from their mission.

In the example given in the gospel, we can see how ambition can destroy us. Ambition breeds envy. It begins to spoil our relationship with others, even with those who are close to us. Friends can become competitors and enemies. Families can split up because of greed and ambition, everyone fighting for their inheritance or love and attention from parents.

Ambition also prevents us from accepting the crosses in our lives, the cup of suffering which Jesus offers to us. Most people are only happy to receive all the blessings and benefits from God. They are not prepared to drink from the cup of suffering nor are they prepared to take up their cross and follow Jesus. A discipleship that refuses to accept the cross, a discipleship that refuses to become last and the least of all, is not discipleship! It is mere human ambition and greed.

Jesus reminds his disciples and therefore all Christians that we should not copy the ways of the world in seeking for power and honour. Jesus reminds us that our way is different: “No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The paradigm of Jesus is downward mobility and not upward mobility.

Today, we also celebrate Mission Sunday. We often forget that we all share in the one mission of the Church, the mission of Jesus Christ. Ambition may blind us to the gifts and talents of others in wanting to serve the Lord and the Church. We begin to compete with one another. We see ministry no longer as a form of service but as a source of power and symbol of importance.

Today, Jesus invites us to drink from his cup, the cup of suffering that represents the way of the cross, the way of discipleship. If we wish to be great, we must be servants of others; if we wish to be first, we must be slave to all.

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