By Fr. Roy Cimagala
WE are reminded of this aspect of Christian life in that gospel episode where the mother of the apostles, James and John, requested Christ to have her sons sit beside him, one on his right and the other on his left, at the Kingdom. (cfr. Mt 20,20-28)
Of course, mothers will always be mothers. They will try to give the best for their children. And so, Christ responded to her delicately that those seats were already reserved for those whom God the Father had chosen.
In the meantime, Christ reminded the mother and the two apostles if they were willing to suffer with him, making them understand that heaven can only be reached through the cross. And to the apostles’ credit, they readily responded, “We can!”
We have to realize then that any privilege, honor or praise given to us is a call for us to be more generous in our self-giving to such an extent that we would not run away from making the supreme sacrifice of giving our life for God and the others, just like what Christ did.
Our attitude should be to sharpen even more our desire to serve and not to be served. Christ made it clear to the mother and the brother-apostles when he said, “The Son of man has not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20,28)
Reiterating the same idea, he told them, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. Not so is it among you. On the contrary, whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”
We should never feel entitled. Christ himself was the first one to live by this principle. Being God, he emptied himself to become man and to bear all the sins of men by dying on the cross, all for the purpose of saving mankind. (cfr. Phil 2,7)
He reiterated this point when he lamented about the domineering sense of entitlement of some of the leading Jews of his time while praising the poor widow who put all that she had into the temple treasury. (cfr. Mk 12,38-44)
While it’s true that we obviously are entitled to our rights, we should not feel entitled to privileges and favors that are above our rights and needs. If they come and we cannot avoid them, then let’s be thankful. But we should immediately realize that when privileges and favors come our way, we are being called to serve more.
Let’s be reminded that these privileges, favors and blessings are meant for us to strengthen our desire to serve and not to be served. But as it is, we should try to avoid them, since they tend only to spoil and corrupt us. We always have to be guarded against this danger.
We need to acquire the mentality of a servant which is actually the mentality of Christ himself. Let us readjust our human standards to conform to what is actually proper to us as taught and lived by Christ. We usually look down on the status of servants. This has to change! We should be convinced that by becoming a servant we would be making ourselves like Christ. Let’s say NO to entitlements.