I was about five years old when I proudly announced at a family party that smoking turns lungs black and Grandma may die from her smoking habit. Surely my Mom groaned at my timing. And while that memory still gives me a chuckle, I find myself thinking about it as I look at Saints James and John in the Gospel today.
Jesus has told His disciples what awaits Him in Jerusalem: betrayal, mockery, physical violence, and death. And only moments later, James and John have chosen the most tactless time for their request on their future prominence. (Mark 10:37) Did they not hear what Jesus just said? How can they be so dense?
And then I remember; I, too, am sometimes just as dense as those disciples. I miss things. I open my big mouth and put my even larger foot in it. I question Jesus on situations or demand certain things even though I don't have His wider perspective as God. I can be really good at telling Jesus what it is that I want, what I expect from Him, and treating my God more like a vending machine giving me what I want when I ask for it. That's not much different from James or John.
But Jesus responds. And the same question He asks the disciples, He asks each of us, my sisters: "Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" (Mark 10:38)
And what that translates for each of us is: Are you willing to die with Me? Are you willing to die to yourself? Part of living the Christian life is dying to our inward selfishness and it is very difficult. We have to let our desires and attitudes that don't reflect the mind of Christ die out. James and John needed a profound change in their attitude and so do we.
Where in your life do you need to die to selfishness? What is the Holy Spirit calling you to strip away?
Patty Breen is a runner, full-time lay minister, and thinks old movies are the greatest thing since sliced bread. When not fundraising for World Youth Day, she is learning to find grace in all things. You can find out more about her here.