“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Jesus’ words in this Sunday’s Gospel sound familiar to those of us who have grown up within the Christian tradition. We’ve heard this passage so many times that it’s easy for us to mindlessly listen to or read it without much thought about how it applies to our lives as Christians who seek justice.
In the second reading, James says, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.”
As a young white woman close to obtaining a university degree, I recognize the immense social privileges I have been granted. Driven by my faith and desire for a more equitable world, I seek to promote equality and justice in my lifestyle, work, and activities. Even so, where do I let “selfish ambition” take over and place my own ego and desire to be known as a “social justice warrior” to those around me above the struggle for justice itself—as the disciples in the Gospel are tempted to do when discussing who amongst them is the “greatest?”
For those of us social justice-oriented folks who have privileged identities, whether they be our race, gender identity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, or citizenship status, Jesus calls us to “check ourselves,” so to speak, when entering spaces occupied by the marginalized in our society. Although we might be tempted to think that our ideas about how to solve social evils of police brutality, violence against the trans* community, or anti-immigrant and refugee rhetoric, let us remember to lead first by listening rather than by speaking. Because, as Jesus and James remind us, it’s never about each of our “passions” individually, especially those of us with privilege, but it is about the common struggle for love and justice for all.
Julia Murphy is a 2019 graduate of Saint Louis University, where she pursued majors in English and Spanish and minors in urban poverty studies and Latin American studies. Most recently, she spent eight months as a volunteer with Rostro de Cristo in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where she worked in community organizing and youth development at Hogar de Cristo, a Jesuit social housing organization. She is passionate about working for justice, which stems from her upbringing as well as from her Jesuit education at SLU and with the Casa de la Mateada program in Córdoba, Argentina through Loyola Marymount University and the Universidad Católica de Córdoba, where she studied during the spring of 2017. She is from Cleveland, Ohio, where she spent the summer of 2018 as an intern with the Ignatian Solidarity Network.