May 21, 2013

MISSION MATTERS: Who's the Greatest?

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"What were you arguing about on the way?"
But they remained silent.
For they had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.

-Mark 9:33-34

It feels good to know that some things about human nature have not changed. In today's Gospel, the disciples are caught discussing a topic that, if we're really honest with ourselves, is something we think about or discuss or worry about today. We all seem to need to think we can build our own self-esteem through comparison games. We all are tempted to think that for us to feel good about who we are, we must be better than someone else. To think we are "winners," others need to be "losers." Most of are caught in a competition, like athletics, where we have to strive to constantly prove our superiority over others in order to have self-value.

This seems to be the heart of the issue the disciples discuss in today's Gospel. Jesus tells His followers, then and now, in His words and deeds, that we must strive to change this all-too-human approach to build our identity and self-esteem. He shows us that the true definition of who we are cannot be based on making others less, but on how we work in all parts of our lives to support and build-up and encourage all others. He tells us, still, again, always in words and deeds, that if we want to feel good about ourselves, we must live, at all times and in every place, in a way that serves all we meet. We cannot live as if we are competitors of others, but we must live as companions.

Under the leadership of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the early Jesuits were reminded of this same lesson. Ignatius told his companions that even though they may have been sent to be advisors to kings or as experts to Church councils, they also needed to stay grounded in the real world and work with the poor, sick and marginalized. Ignatius hoped his brothers would be able to resist the temptation to live lives founded on — relying on — power and competition and would remember in all parts of their lives the charge we all have to serve others equally.

As we look toward a new academic year ... a new year for all of us at Saint Louis University, let us renew our efforts to live our real Mission more in each moment of our lives. Let us look at each person we meet or task we undertake as clear opportunities to search for the truth in that moment. Let us take the time to discover how we can truly serve others — not just because it makes us feel good or helps us prove our own worth, but because by serving others we may become more aware that the other is connected to who we are. In all of this, we know that God will be praised as we all come closer to who we are meant to be.

No matter whether we work at the end of a shovel, or mop, or a keyboard, or a board room table, we are all charged to make this same Mission real — in our words and our actions.

Each of our roles in the work of Saint Louis University is important in its own way. Each of our roles helps educate a student, helps serve a Higher Purpose, helps seek a Greater Good.

Whether we manage or are managed, we have great worth — not from any particular role we may have, but because of the value God has given each of us.

Let us all strive to work and live not as competitors, but companions in our common purpose, where the greatest among us is truly the person who serves us all. Who's the greatest? The one who serves is the greatest.

A. M. D. G.

D. Highberger, S.J.
P. Stark, S.J.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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