Summoned by the Lord

There is a moment in this Sunday's Gospel when every one of the apostles is upset.

James and John asked Jesus for places of honor in the kingdom of heaven, and He refused their request. It was a reminder that they should not seek worldly glory in the next life, but should instead seek to be faithful disciples in this life. While James and John are still hurting after Christ's rebuke, the other apostles show their own indignation at the two of them for trying to position themselves in places of honor over the others in the group.

At this point, each apostle was frustrated, primarily because of his own pride. They were supposed to be following Jesus, but they were more concerned with getting ahead of the others, or making sure one of the others did not get ahead of them.

To see the apostles arguing like adolescents should offer us some comfort, for we can all identify times in our lives when our pride has sidetracked our discipleship. Sometimes we may worry that we are not as holy as other parishioners are, while other times we may think we deserve more credit for the sacrifices we are making. Pride works both ways, making us think we are either inferior or superior to others who are following Jesus. We try to position ourselves just like the apostles did. So, of course, our problem is the same as theirs: We look at those around us and take our eyes off the Lord.

We must take note of what Jesus did in the middle of the turmoil. He summoned the apostles and had them gather around Him, pulling them away from their petty and disruptive thoughts and actions and turning their focus on Him. It was only then that Jesus spoke, explaining to them the importance of humility in a life of holiness.

What do we do when we are assaulted by thoughts of pride, anger or of any other nature that cause division between us and our family, our friends, our coworkers or even our fellow parishioners and clergy? It is easy to think about how we have been wronged, to rank ourselves above others or to entertain countless other thoughts that might make us feel better about ourselves and worse about someone else. We should develop the habit of asking ourselves, "In this moment, in this relationship, are my eyes on the Lord? Am I trying to assert myself to feel superior to someone, or am I angry because I believe someone is superior to me?"

When we are tempted in this way, let us follow the example of Jesus and gather before the Lord. While we may not be able to join physically with the persons from whom we have been separated through our thoughts, we can still bring them along with us in prayer, and gather together before Our Lord. He is calling us to communion, just as He called the apostles. He desires to speak to us of humility and charity and grant us the healing we need to overcome the conflicts and grudges we allow to remain in our lives.

It is only when a child starts to doubt a parent's love that they compare or rank themselves in the family. Likewise, it is when we, like the apostles, take our eyes off the Lord and His love for us, that we run into these problems. Caught up in the imaginary order we have construed, we lose the ability to authentically love our neighbor and faithfully serve in the present moment.

Jesus is summoning us. He is calling us to come to Him with these temptations that lead to division. He is offering us the grace we need to be men and women of encounter and communion. Let us go to Him in prayer and in the sacrament of reconciliation, that we may be transformed through His mercy and love. Let us ask the Lord to free us so that we may simply receive His love and love others in return.

Fr. Wagner is Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde's secretary.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015