BY JUSTIN WHITE | October 18, 2021
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Many will say that the “Sons of Thunder” asked Jesus this bold request out of pride. I believe it was out of fear. Just before Mark 10:35, Scripture tells us that Jesus revealed to the disciples for the third time that He was to die. Maybe it was the fear of losing their connection to Jesus that led James and John to ask for confirmation that they would be forever linked. Maybe it was the fear of losing that passion, that sense of purpose, that they felt so fervently as they walked, sat, learned, and ministered alongside Jesus. Maybe they just wanted to know that they had truly achieved good in this world. I’m sure at times we want these affirmations as well.
However, in a moment of tough love, Jesus reminds the brothers that trust is greater than any assurance of success. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have the game-winning formation. We, then, are called to be faithful teammates. It is not our titles, our programs, or our resumes that build the Kingdom of God—it is our spirit of service and trust that makes us co-builders. If we orient ourselves to this greater purpose, neither pride nor fear will dilute our work.
The biggest blunder that exists in the request from the brothers was that they asked to be separated—elevated—from the other disciples. I believe this is why Jesus called them all together and told them, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus wanted to re-establish trust among the disciples. I have felt this trust in my involvement with the Jesuit Anti-Racist Solidaity. When oftentimes spaces for diversity, inclusion, and equity end up being performative, this group has been a healthy haven for my existence. We listen fully and intently to our personal and professional desolations and consolations. We give to and ask mercy of one another. We plan jointly and intentionally. In our moments of pride and/or fear, we remind each other that the hard and deliberate work of racial justice is best done in community. A community that trusts. I pray that your work, whatever it may be, is full of trust.
Justin T. White is a middle school counselor, admissions associate, and clubs and activities coordinator at Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland.
Thank you, Justin, for this short article. You pack a lot of kindness, insight, trust and a desire to read more into this. But, I have to admit that you somewhat lose me and make me cringe when you begin to use and form of the word “race” in your article. I love how you say “we give to and ask mercy of one another.” Yes, for sure and beautifully expressed. But, when “race” is brought in to such messages it begins to build a wall. All that you say without race being brought in is true of our relationship with all people-made in the image and likeness of God. Personal hurt has happened no matter our skin color and thus I think skin color needs to stay out of helping each other out of this pit of “race.” Trust.
Growing up and spending my young adult life in the Chicago area, I delighted in the variety of people and cultures there. Now I am old, living in a low-crime, rural area of Wisconsin. While I love my physical surroundings, sometimes I feel like an alien in a backwards, racist world. I know not everybody is like that, but it seems like the majority are, including my own son. I don’t know many people, and it is a great comfort to read of your efforts to nurture an appreciation and enjoyment of all peoples and cultures.
Thank you Justin; it is a privilege for me to be a part of JARS. Thanks for your thought-provoking words!
It is so interesting when we see justice meted out in our ordinary everyday life. When I lived in Peaceful Park the neighborhood was ‘tolerant’ of single woman living in a house by herself. Why did she live there? What will happen? What do people think? Where does she go? One of my biggest supporters was an African American man who worked on my block as the garbage man. He was happy, content and careful in doing his job. He was especially attentive to me as he took care of my ‘ garbage cans and recycle’ both competently and carefully. During times of storm and snow he would come back to see if there was a path for me to get in and out of the house. The recycle and garbage cans were exactly where they had been placed previously. Another thing that was filled with justice, is that he had a great voice and used to sing while he was doing his job. My ears loved hearing him. He certainly had a feeling/knowledge of service and trust.
Thanks Justin. Indeed we are called to be co-creators, creating and keeping the Planet fit for the generations that are yet to come.