Remember when we were children praying to God for somethi8ng important and not getting it? I do! I was so disappointed. I recall praying for many things over the years, things that made perfect sense to me,
at the time, but God seemingly did not hear me and I did not get what I wanted. I never got that “prom date” and never was part of the “in” crowd. It was easy for me to conclude that God did not care for me as I went about my business of not thinking of others. I never thought of my responsibility to serve and help others.
Some people spend their entire lives without extending themselves to anyone else. If it doesn't benefit them personally, people don't act. Or they trade their action for a reaction to get what they want. Politics is a lot like that: people trading favors for favors, money for action, pleasure for a status upgrade.
In today's Gospel, James and John are asking Jesus for special favors. They want Jesus to grant their wish. Jesus had just warned them that there was much pain and suffering ahead for him. Do they really want to be his close friends and recipients of the suffering he was to endure? Jesus was servant to the many, healing the sick, comforting the sorrowing, even raising the dead. His life was one of service to people in need, regardless of political status, race, gender, authority or age. I am sure Jesus was not looking forward to the pain he was going to endure, but he was intent on continuing his mission from God to be the “compassionate One.”
We too often try to find the easiest way out of a difficult situation when we don't want to do something because it's inconvenient or takes too much effort or we don't like the people involved. Of course we need to set limits since we cannot personally help everyone. But we must be servants because that is the mission to which Jesus calls us. We can give people a helping hand when they need it, grant a favor because it's the right thing to do. Perhaps no one will notice, but God always does. There are so many things we can do in the course of a day to help others – not big things, but small things that may or may not be deeply appreciated. James and John want the glory and fame of being special friends of Jesus, but they failed to anticipate the accompanying difficulties related to that friendship.
Recently Pope Francis set a fine example of service for us, meeting with migrant children, visiting the imprisoned, the sick, and discussing important issues with politicians. God will set forth an agenda for each of us. Let's take the time to listen to what God asks of us. It's hard to listen to God when so many contrasting voices are shouting at us. Let's make our prayer less an “asking for favors” time and more “how can I be of service” time.