The First Shall Be Last

In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus finds his disciples arguing among themselves about which of them is the greatest and tells them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant to all.”   And Jesus provides many examples to his own disciples by his own behavior of serving others.

But there is a risk of taking Jesus’ comment too literally.  Many people, particularly many women, relinquish control over their lives in order to satisfy others’ expectations and needs.  We can become so dedicated to caring for other people that we do not even realize that our own needs are neglected.  Or, if we think about it at all, we think that our needs are less important than the needs of others.  Everyone else’s needs take priority over our own. 

Service to others is part of who we are as Christians, but loving like Christ does not require failing to take care of our own needs. It is easy to start to think, “It is selfish to consider my own well-being.”  “I shouldn’t pay attention to my own needs.”  “I should never say no to a request for help.”  We need to remember that if we care for the needs of others to the point of neglecting ourselves, we do not love God and others “as we love ourselves” and we set ourselves up for depression and burnout.