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29th Sunday: Congregation for the Clergy on Learning Humility From James and John

By Vatican Congregation for the Clergy
October 22nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The authentic desire for true greatness belongs to man in so much as it is part of each of us and so should not be censured or decreased under the guise of a misguided humility which could result.  Man is made to be great.  St Thomas teaches us that man is "Capex Dei" which means "capable of God" and therefore cannot be content with anything that is inferior to God Himself.

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - We are pleased to offer the Congregation for the Clergy's Refective homily from Sunday's Liturgy:

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In the homily at the inauguration of his Pontificate, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, addressed the Church and the entire world, affirming that Christ "takes nothing away, and He gives you everything."  He who can affirm, with Peter, the certainty that Christ takes nothing away and gives you everything has received an inestimable treasure, he has found that 'precious pearl' and that 'hidden treasure' that the Lord speaks of in the Gospel. 

Daily, we implore the gift of grace, and when it comes, it is always welcomed as being ever new.  It is the same gift that moved the first disciples to leave their loved ones and their occupations to follow the Lord.  It is the same gift that the Apostles received and, of which, the pages of this Sunday's Gospel narrate.  

Certainly, Christ does not take anything away from man but, rather, He gives everything.  However, He may deprive him of some of his worldly goods in order to give him the greatest good that is Himself, in Person.  In a certain sense He also does not ever deprive man of evil.  He who is the only Saviour, does not solve our difficulties by eliminating them or substituting them or artificially removing us from the sorrowful circumstances of our lives. 

Certainly, Christ saves man from evil and from death by His Cross.  However, He saves us without sparing us that beneficial great 'fatigue' that comes from our liberty, that healthy fatigue which only death can remove.

The heart often seems heavy with this fatigue and it would long to be liberated from it, yet it quickly turns to the object of its desire with the same impatience that animated James and John in today's Gospel, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left."(Mk10:37) 

With these words the sons of Zebedee seem to ask the Lord to accede to their 'jump' that automatically places them in the first place and would save them the burden of taking the journey.  It is almost as if this journey, with all its unpredictable circumstances, constitutes an objection to the goal and something that the Lord might, after all, save them from.

One might be tempted to share the indignation of the other disciples or to look  at James and John with a little pity, if we consider that the request was just a 'youthful impulse' or a remnant of what St Paul calls the "old man" from which they must despoil themselves.  In any case, even a hasty glance would clearly show that their ideas do not coincide with the Lord's view.

In fact, the Lord does not reproach them for the request that they expressed but helps them to call it by its real name so that He could direct them upon the only right path to happiness.  With extreme delicacy  - the delicacy of He who knows and loves every fibre of our being - Christ calls this desire by name and the sons of Zebedee, and the other Apostles, were moved when He said: "whoever wishes to be great among you.." (Mk10:44) 

In reality, James and John did not desire "greatness" and had acknowledged that if such greatness was possible for man, it could only be achieved next to that exceptional Person with whom they now shared their lives and their day.  If it was possible to be great, it could only be achieved at Christ's side:  "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." 

The authentic desire for true greatness belongs to man in so much as it is part of each of us and so should not be censured or decreased under the guise of a misguided humility which could result.  Man is made to be great.  St Thomas teaches us that man is "Capex Dei" which means "capable of God" and therefore cannot be content with anything that is inferior to God Himself.

How can one face such a desire to be great, without hiding or reducing it?  Above all else by trusting it to Christ because it is He that had made our hearts in this way.  It will be Christ to respond, perhaps unexpectedly, but certainly in a true way helping us to face the circumstances that we would love to escape and which we, consider to be an obstacle in our lives.

In these same concrete circumstances, that Christ did not want to deprive us of, we can enjoy his continuous Presence because He became man in order to face our difficulties for us and with us because: "we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God,  who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin." (Heb 4:15)

We cannot become "servants" of a moralistic contempt for greatness but only for the love of the One who is truly great, Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ who calls us to share His entire life and Kingdom with Him.   Christ has drunk the bitter chalice of the Passion, and so it may also rest on our lips so that we can also take our place alongside Him.

May most Holy Mary, who all generations call Blessed, guide us on the authentic road of greatness.  Amen!

Citations of:
Is 53,10-11: www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/9apoutbu.htm
He 4,14-16:     www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/9avuuqd.htm
Mc 10,35-45: www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/9bweoqj.htm

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