In fourth grade I was completely in love with Dee Dee, or as much in love as a ten old could be. I thought she was the prettiest girl in whole world. Of course I’m guilty of doing all the common things, such as writing litanies of mine name on hers on paper together -oth replete with hearts and arrows, giving her girlfriends notes to pass to her, and fainting whenever she wore her pigtails to school. But I’ve always been an over-the-top guy who does over-the-top things, and with Dee Dee it was no different. For example, one day I spied her coming down the hallway at school, so what I decided to do was position myself to ‘coincidentally’ simultaneously turn to the corner at the same time and position as her, so that we might could ‘accidentally’ touch lips. My creative machination was no match for my superb timing that day. As Dee Dee and I turned the corner together my heart danced at the opportunity to lock adolescent lips with her, and then my heart sank as we bumped foreheads. I still can’t believe she turned the corning with her head down, and from the look on her face for the rest of the day, I think she couldn’t believe that I didn’t know how to walk on the right side of hallway.
Another memory of me trying to get Dee Dee’s attention was the day I shot her in the leg with a BB Gun Rifle as she walked past my house. I remember she had white pants on that day. I don’t know why I even aimed the rifle at her. I take that back – the Devil actually made me do it! He didn’t want me to be happy. I thought I had missed her with my shot because she looked at me smiled as she walked past, but later that day my Mom asked me if I shot a girl with my BB Gun Rifle. She said a girl and her mother came by and the girl had a red bruise on her leg, and said that I had shot her. I told Mom that the rifle doesn’t even work anymore; that the girl probably got stung by a bee or something. There we two girls as McGuffey Elementary that I remember praying to God that He would make my girlfriend, and Dee Dee was the first one. I suppose none of us can help but to pray to God for things that will make us happy. For, who has ever intentionally prayed to God for something to make them miserable?
The Apostles James and John in the Gospel Readings at this Sunday’s Mass from Mark 10:35-45 also seem to be a bit over-the-top in their petition to the Lord, and their desire to be satisfied in their happiness is the reason why. Together they approached the Lord and asked if he would grant them whatever they asked, which seemed like a reasonable request; even most Christians today know verse from John 14:13-14 in which Jesus tells us that whatever we ask for in His name will be given us. In this instance, Jesus replies, “What do you wish me to do for you?” To which the sons of Zebedee answer, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” I suppose beggars can’t be choosy, but they really went all in for what they thought would make them eternally happy, and decided to screw over the other Apostles while they were at it. The text says that when the ten heard about James’ and John’s request “they became indignant”. I’m almost certain that if Peter had a BB Gun he would have shot them in the leg with it.
Jesus used the brother’s self-interested prayer as a teachable moment to inform all of the Apostles exactly how they needed to live their lives if they truly wanted to counted as being great in the eyes of God. “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
There are two people in this world – there are the humble and there are those who are about to be humbled. As for me, I never really knew how to pray or what to pray for until I was humbled and brought low. Born and alpha-male and coddled during my childhood on top of that, I not only hated not being first or getting what I wanted, I felt entitled to position and getting what I wanted. Even though I can’t escape the memory of the day I realized that I was nothing and could do nothing without Jesus, I still find myself feeling a little angry whenever I’m not winning or on top. The difference now is that I don’t pray to win or to be on top.
Being brought low and being humbled taught me something very important that I see Jesus trying to show the Apostles when he points them to be the least – to be a slave of all. When you have nothing – when you are a slave – when you are low you pray for simple things. You pray for what you need in that very moment and in that day. You pray only for what you need most. A hungry and poor man prays for his daily bread. A prisoner prays for freedom. A lost man prays to be found. An abused woman prays for safety. A homeless person prays for shelter. A coddled little boy prays to have a pretty girlfriend.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make our petitions known to the Lord. God is a giver of all good things. On the contrary, what I am pointing out here is the scariest thing about the James’ and John’s prayer to Jesus; which is that they didn’t ask Lord to do anything for the other ten Apostles. They were in pursuit of their own happiness at the sake of the others. They were so high on themselves that they couldn’t see anyone else.
What I’ve learned in life is that if I want peace, then I ought to pray for God to grant peace to others as well as to myself. If you want more joy in your life, then pray for God to increase other’s joy as well as your own. If you make your prayer life inclusive of the needs of others as well, what you’ll discover is what you’ve asked God to give to those whom you prayed for will all be given to you.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.