Privileged but not feeling entitled

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

THAT’S how we should behave. We may be quite privileged in life because of the many gifts and other endowments God and others may have given us, but we should never feel entitled to anything. Instead, our attitude toward these privileges should be one of willingness to serve more, doing a lot of good while passing unnoticed, and all for the glory of God and for the good of all.

That amusing story of the mother of the apostles, James and John, asking Christ that her sons be given a special place in heaven (cfr. Mt 20,20-28) teaches us this precious lesson. I suppose the mother can be excused for making such request. Mothers will always be mothers who wish to have the best for their children. But Christ purified that request.

“Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” Christ asked them, referring to the fact that Christ in the end will offer his life on the cross for the salvation of mankind. Whether James and John understood what Christ meant or not, it is to their credit that they immediately responded, “We can.”

But Christ kindly told them that it “is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father,” somehow deflecting them from this request and instead suggesting to focus more on what they should be doing as apostles.

This gospel episode actually warns us to be wary of our tendency to feel entitled because of the privileges we may be enjoying in life. We should rather sharpen our desire to serve and not be served, always following the example of Christ who said, “The Son of man has not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20,28)

Let’s remember that to serve is the language and the action of love. It authenticates any affirmation of love that we make, converting it from intention to tangible reality.

This is the attitude meant for us, with God himself as the exemplar. Imagine, Christ served us by dying on the cross. Before that, he shocked his apostles when he insisted that he be allowed to wash their feet. That was to give example to them, and us, so that what he did we would also do.

The angels too, superior to us in nature, are made to serve us, following a divine law articulated by Christ himself when he said: “Let him who is greatest among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant.” (Lk 22,26)

Christ is the very epitome of this proper attitude. Being God, he emptied himself to become man and to bear all the sins of men by dying on the cross, all for the purpose of saving mankind. (cfr. Phil 2,7)

He reiterated this point when he lamented about the domineering sense of entitlement of some of the leading Jews of his time while praising the poor widow who put all that she had into the temple treasury. (cfr. Mk 12,38-44)

While it’s true that we obviously are entitled to our rights, we should not feel entitled to privileges and favors that are above our rights and needs. If they come and we cannot avoid them, then let’s be thankful.

But let’s be reminded that these privileges, favors and blessings are meant for us to strengthen our desire to serve and not to be served. But as it is, we should try to avoid them, since they tend only to spoil and corrupt us.