A reading from the gospel according to Matthew 20:17-28
17 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way,
18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death,
19 and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
21 He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
22 Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.”
23 He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
24 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers.
25 But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
26 But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
27 whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
28 Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
What does it take to be a hero and what does it take to be a saint? There are two main traits of a hero/heroine or a saint. The most important trait is selflessness – the willingness to offer one’s life to serve others. The other trait is courage – the willingness to risk one’s own life to save another. These two characteristics were exemplified by Jesus Himself and the ultimate display of these two traits was when He was nailed to the cross at Calvary. The eleven apostles and many others after them followed suit. Yet there is one more characteristic that can be found mostly among saints and that is humility – the ability to be lower oneself in order to exalt God and serve His people.
It has often been pointed out that following Jesus is not at all a bed of roses. In fact, the life of a real disciple is full of suffering and sacrifice which includes opposition, persecution and even martyrdom. One has to look up to the life of Jesus to understand what it means to speak the truth, serve the last, the least and the lost, and to offer oneself as a ransom for many. In Him, we find the true essence of servant leadership – not dominating others but being a slave to the least of the world.
The gospel reading above shows the meaning of greatness and that is willingness to embrace suffering and death in the service of God and the needy. So if you want to be a hero or a saint, you know what to do.