The Fast Track to True Success
The lesson Jesus has been teaching by His example since the day of His birth, He now teaches with words, as we hear in our Gospel Reading this week. And this lesson is a big one: The Nature of True Success.
When Jesus and His apostles sit down to relax in Capernaum after a day of walking the hot, dusty roads of Galilee, He knows exactly what they have been talking about – success, glory, greatness. But the apostles are too embarrassed to admit it. But our Lord’s response is surprising. He doesn’t tell them that they shouldn’t desire to excel, to achieve, to do great things. He doesn’t condemn that very normal impulse – because He knows that achieving things, making a difference in the world, is a basic need felt by every human heart. This is one of the purposes of our lives: being a sign of God’s goodness by making a positive difference in the world. So, Jesus doesn’t scold them for wanting to do something great. Instead, He tells them what true greatness really is.
The great task for every Christian isn’t to achieve fame and fortune, popularity, power, and worldly success. Rather, it’s the same task that Christ himself undertook: to serve others, to make others happy, to reach out to those who are weak and in need. Greatness in Christ’s Kingdom is equated with humility, an attitude of the heart that puts the good of others ahead of one’s own preferences: it’s self-giving, NOT self-getting.
He doesn’t say to His apostles, “Don’t strive to achieve great things,” but He does point out where true, lasting, fulfilling greatness lies – in loving one’s neighbour as He has loved them. Jesus is the Servant-Lord; we, His faithful disciples, are called to follow in those demanding footsteps, learners following Our Lord’s example.
Most of us are able to see the beauty of humility and humble service to others; we can understand intuitively why this is the mark of True Success. But putting this idea into practice is not so easy. We are willing to commit “random acts of kindness” now and then, because they make us feel good. But real progress requires a deeper commitment.
The best place to implement this plan for True Success is at home. It is in our closest relationships, those of our family, that our natural selfishness tends to come out most easily. And so, to transform those tendencies, to purify them and grow in the virtue of humility, we need to attack them there. Humbly serving our spouse, our siblings, our parents – this is true Christ-like virtue, this is where we forge a Christ-like heart.
Our family members know us well; they are familiar with our tantrums and egocentric habits. As a result, they aren’t usually impressed by an extra act of kindness, service, or self-control, by an extra effort to be patient or to hold our tongue. That’s why the home is the best place to grow in humility and pursue True Success. Serving others when there is no reward or recognition involved is the best way to follow Christ’s example and purify our hearts – after all, His service to others got Him crucified!
If we gradually learn to think about others before ourselves inside the four walls of our home, it will become second nature to do so outside. And when that happens, we will be on the ‘Fast Track to True Christ Like Success.’ True disciples of our Lord, reflecting Him.
Fr David Jones OLW