Friends, in today’s Gospel the mother of James and John asks Jesus on their behalf to place them in high places in his kingdom. They are asking for two of the classic four substitutes for God: wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. The two brothers specifically want the last two.
Power is not, in itself, a bad thing. And the same is true of honor. Thomas Aquinas said that honor is the flag of virtue. It’s a way of signaling to others something that’s worth noticing.
So then what’s the problem? The problem is that they are asking for these two things in the wrong spirit. The ego will want to use power, not for God’s purposes or in service of truth, beauty, and goodness, but for its own aggrandizement and defense. When honor is sought for its own sake or in order to puff up the ego, it becomes dangerous as well.
What’s the way out? Jesus tells us: “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all; whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.” When you serve others, when you become the least, you are accessing the power of God and seeking the honor of God.