Do you remember Norm from the TV series Cheers? He once said, “It’s a dog eat dog world, and I’m wearing Milk Bone underwear.” That’s funny, but also a tragic reflection on the nature of human relationships, especially in the world of work- even church work. As leadership gurus like to say, we need to learn to swim with the sharks.
When our hearts are set on gaining power and influence, it doesn’t matter who gets trampled upon or left behind. Perhaps this may make us a bit uneasy, but we can always rationalize it by saying things like “It’s not personal, it’s business,” or “Nice guys finish last.”
But is that really true? Not according to Jesus in today’s gospel. He had just told his disciples about his impending torture and execution. But what happens next? The “Sons of thunder,” along with their mother, make a power grab. They thought: Jesus’ time is short, so we’d better make our move to be on top in his kingdom. Carpe diem; you snooze, you lose.
They didn’t express any concern about Jesus’ fate, and they didn’t seem to care what their friends might think. Evidently, their selfish ambition had blinded them to compassion or concern about anyone else.
Jesus turned this situation into a teachable moment. He conceded that the world may seem to belong to those who can swim with the sharks. But as for his disciples, we are to swim against the tide. He invites us to follow in his footsteps- by living a life of service; by being focused on others’ needs; by being humble; by cherishing sacrifice, not selfishness.
The world may indeed delude us into thinking that “nice guys finish last.” Except, Jesus reminds us, in the race that really counts.
Readings for today's Mass: http://www.usccb.org/nab/032311.shtml