The Last Shall Be First

In today’s Gospel from St. Mark, Jesus (immediately after one of His predictions of His passion) comes upon his disciples talking arguing about which of them was the greatest. Jesus responds by telling them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

One of Jesus’ important lessons for us is that greatness in God’s sight is not found in how many people serve us, but rather in how faithfully we serves others. And this wasn’t just something He told his disciples; rather, He gave example of this service in His own behavior with them.

Think of the example Jesus provided in his last Passover meal with His disciples. In John we read, “fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.”

After doing so, Jesus tells them, “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

These passages are good ones for us to reflect on from time to time because it is so easy, especially for people who occupy leadership positions – be it in a business, in a university, in a parish, or in some other setting – to lose sight of the fact that their job is to serve and not be served. I suspect that whatever our position is, this is a reminder we all can use now and then.

Update: I notice that David McCallum, S.J., focuses in his blog (which I only recently discovered) on the second reading from today’s Mass, with a reflection on the false/true self that you will want to check out. You can read it here.