Let’s be honest. In today’s gospel we clearly see ourselves in the request of the stealthy brothers James and John. They wanted to partake of Jesus’ glory by volunteering to be his closest allies when he finally assumes his glory. The two imagined this glory in terms of earthly and material might. Simple fishermen that they were, to be prime minister and president of the Lord’s kingdom was a temptation that proved to be so irresistible.

The other ten disciples were enraged when they heard of the brothers’ conspiratorial attempt to gain power. Why? It was because these two beat them to it! Observing Jesus’ rise to prestige, the other disciples too, harbored intentions of partaking in the power, fame and glory of the Lord. Even Jesus’ closest aides were not immune from the lure of ambition.

Is it wrong to be ambitious? Is it wrong to dream of a better life, a higher status, or a more glamorous position in society? After all, isn’t that what our parents have been trying to tell us since we were young? Don’t our schools inculcate the desire for excellence and greatness in young people’s tender minds?

To be ambitious may be right or wrong depending on the intention. Some people are ambitious in a selfish way, wanting to gain glory only for themselves. This was clearly the type of motivation James and John, and though unsaid, the ten other disciples, had. That was why the Lord had to frustrate their plan.

Others are ambitious in a selfless way, desiring to be the best they can be for the glory of God and the service of others. This was the example Jesus tried to teach his disciples and us today. When he said that the great one should first be the servant of others, he is reminding us of his teachings and his examples. Here was someone who came “to serve and not to be served.”

It’s perfectly alright to have a life goal, an ambition. As Christians though, we must check whether our deepest longing is a mere desire for personal advantage and gain or a genuine mission to help others and give glory to the Lord.

We all know how this all ended. In the end, James and John and the other disciples lived the rest of their lives by giving others hope through the Gospel and even by dying unreservedly for their faith in the Lord. With openness and faith, a selfish ambition can be transformed into a selfless ambition to love and serve.

Be ambitious, for God and for others!