James and John get put in a bad light because of their request in today’s Gospel. How dare they seek glory by asking for places at Jesus’s side! However, Saint John Chrysostom, the “golden-mouthed” preacher of the early Church, sheds a more gracious light on this scene in one of his homilies and says that Jesus’s response, “You do not know what you are asking,” actually means that what they ask for is “a great and splendid thing.” They don’t realize it yet, but they are asking to give their life. Truly, a noble wish, albeit made for not-so-noble reasons. In the end, their request will be granted—one being martyred and the other inspiring self-sacrifice in millions of pilgrims—and both will enter into true glory because of their noble desire.Jesus uses the disciples' desire for greatness to teach what true greatness and glory will look like for those who follow him. Click To Tweet
Jesus does not reprimand the disciples’ desire for greatness. Rather, he uses their desire to teach what true greatness and glory will look like for those who follow him. We can take comfort in this and hear its challenge as well. None of us should strive for anything less than greatness when it comes to being disciples. There is no room for half-heartedness in Jesus’s mission. The Spirit, through our failures and successes, little by little, will purify our desire for glory at Christ’s side and will teach us the true meaning of greatness.