Saturday, October 20, 2018

Mega Billions in the Kingdom of God


By a show of hands, how many us played the Mega Millions this week? Yes, I confess, that I couldn’t resist grabbing a Quick Pick this week too. As we all discovered this morning, none of us won, and now the pot has grown to $1.6 billion. I guess they’ll have to rename it the Mega Billions! I bet as you purchased your one-in-260 million chance of winning, you probably gave some thought to what you would do with the cash. Perhaps pay off some bills, buy a new house or car, start a business, go on some wonderful trips, quit your job. The more philanthropic among you hopefully thought you’d give a nice chunk to St. Margaret’s or other worthy causes. It is easy to think of the “things” that a lot of money could do in our lives, but, I wonder, do you think that winning would make your life happier?

I came across a study of more than 3,000 lottery winners that asked: All things considered, how happy would you say you are? They found that winners were certainly more comfortable than they had been, which makes sense if they don’t have to worry about bills and the like. Surprisingly, though, they did not find any noticeable increase in happiness because of their win. Similarly, Forbes Magazine conducted a study of the happiest professions in the United States. They did not find bankers, business people, or money managers on their list. The happiest people are: artists, teachers, physical therapists, firefighters and the number one spot? Priests!

Last week, I mentioned a quote of Pope Benedict who said, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” Greatness and wealth; greatness and comfort; greatness and power – these are not usually the same things. This question is also at the heart of our Gospel today. Our passage shows us this grab-for-glory by two of the disciples – James and John – who want a privileged place in the Kingdom; one at the right and one at the left of Jesus. They are grabbing for what they believe to be success and greatness – an important position in the Kingdom and the perceived power that comes with it. But, Jesus turns their question on its head, “You do not know what you’re asking,” He tells them. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant, whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”

This is a timeless message of the Gospel – greatness is found by being the least; success is found in servanthood. Yet, how often we treat that message as quaint and fail to embrace it. James and John learn the hard way that greatness isn’t determined by accomplishments, wealth, power, or status. The measure of our success and happiness is whether or not we are cooperating with God’s plan. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is this: God created everyone for success. As Pope Benedict said, we are created for greatness. God did not create any one of us for failure. They key is to make our measure of greatness the same as God’s measure.

For most people, as for James and John, success means to be head of the pack. To succeed means to excel. Success is measured by comparing one's achievements against “competitors;” stacking up your wealth against another’s. That’s why James and John go to Jesus and instead of asking that they be granted a place in His kingdom, they ask for prime position; a position of perceived power.

Jesus teaches them a new meaning of success. Success means realizing and fulfilling God's dream for you. There can be no life happier than that. Jesus is inviting us not to compete, but to cooperate with Him. He is inviting us not to plot for conquest, but to learn to listen to the plan that God speaks to our hearts; not to sew divisions based on color, nationality, status or wealth, but to be unified as members of One Body.

James and John today represent the mentality of our world which encourages unbridled ambition, and the ruthless triumph over our rivals, rather than seeking to discern God's will for our lives. It encourages unhealthy competition, rather than cooperation and the contentment of realizing that when we become servant to one another we achieve a greatness that nothing can take away.

God has more than enough dreams to go around, a different dream for everyone here today, a different dream for every single person in the world. Our goal in life should be simply and only this: to discover and live God's dream for us; to serve one another and find greatness in that service. And that, my brothers and sisters, is the only true measure of success, of greatness, and of happiness: what would God have me do? Because if we don’t fulfill God’s dream for us – who will?

“Whoever wishes to be great among you, first among you, will be the servant of all.” And if each of us does that, never mind 260 million-to-one, I guarantee we will all win. May we achieve the greatness that God has dreamed us for.

May the Lord give you peace!

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