Understanding Our Pecking Order

First Reading: Sirach 36:1, 4-5, 10-17
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, the God of all, and look upon us, 4As in us thou hast been sanctified before them, so in them be thou magnified before us; and let them know thee, as we have known that there is not God but thee, O Lord. Crush the heads of the rulers of the enemy, who say, “There is no one but ourselves.” Gather all the tribes of Jacob, and give them their inheritance, as at the beginning. Have mercy, O Lord, upon the people called by thy name, upon Israel, whom thou hast likened to a first-born son. Have pity on the city of thy sanctuary, Jerusalem, the place of thy rest. Fill Zion with the celebration of thy wondrous deeds, and thy temple with thy glory. Bear witness to those whom thou didst create in the beginning, and fulfil the prophecies spoken in thy name. Reward those who wait for thee, and let thy prophets be found trustworthy. Hearken, O Lord, to the prayer of thy servants, according to the blessing of Aaron for thy people, and all who are on the earth will know that thou art the Lord, the God of the ages.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 79:8-9, 11, 13
Do not remember against us the iniquities of our forefathers; let thy compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for thy name’s sake! Let the groans of the prisoners come before thee; according to thy great power preserve those doomed to die! Then we thy people, the flock of thy pasture, will give thanks to thee for ever; from generation to generation we will recount thy praise.

Gospel: Mark 10:32-45
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise.” And James and John, the sons of Zeb’edee, came forward to him, and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”



The road to Jerusalem. The end is near. The crowds are pressing in from every side, and the frenzy over Who Jesus is has reached a fever pitch.

Jesus, having just finished explaining His impending passion and crucifixion to His disciples, waits expectantly for Saints James and John who have breathlessly approached Him with one small request:

“Can you make us kind of a big deal, Lord?”

If God weren’t accustomed to human antics by this stage of the game, I think He might have lost it at this point.

But He didn’t. Jesus, meek and humble of heart, has infinite patience for us in our weakness and our inability to focus on what He is asking of us. And thank God for that, because isn’t that just like a Christian to survey the map of suffering laid out before us and ask, “Oh, Lord, if You wouldn’t mind, one small detail: could you make sure this turns out nicely for me in the long run?”

If I’m going to follow You, I want it to be worthwhile. 

It communicates a certain lack of trust, this seemingly innocent but not entirely appropriate request to be held in high esteem for doing the right thing. It reminds me a lot of my oldest son who is always asking to be first out of the car, first to be served at meals, first wrapped up in a fluffy towel after bath time. And every time he asks we gently remind him, “The first shall be last, honey.”

Sometimes he struggles and overcomes his need to be first, and I see it and I love him for it. And in those little moments of triumph I’ll reach over and release his carseat straps first, winking at him in a silent acknowledgement of his little victory in his skirmish with concupiscence.

Jesus is infinitely more patient than the kindest of parents, though. And so He reassures not with chastisement but with tenderness and tough love.

Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first must be slave to all.

And then He goes a little further. He beckons us, watch Me, keep your eyes on Me, because I’m going to show you exactly what that looks like, and then He points us to the Cross.

This is what love looks like, He whispers. That’s why I’m here.

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Take a moment to reflect on how you’ve failed to serve your family, your coworkers, your spouse, your children today, and spend some time journaling some concrete actions you can take to do better.

photo by Laura Jensen

Jenny Uebbing is a freelance writer and editor for Catholic News Agency. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband Dave and their small army of toddlers. You can find out more about her faith, thoughts on bioethics, and potty training failures here

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