Selfish Ambition versus Self-sacrifice

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Rev. Anthony Giamello
Pastor, St. John the Apostle/St. Bernadette

Perhaps you have heard of the ancient Greek legend of Narcissus. He was supposedly the son of a river god. A seer had told his mother that her son must never see his reflection if he were to mature into manhood. For that reason, everything that threw off an image, such as metal, was removed from her son’s grasp. But one day Narcissus found a spring that formed a pool filled with crystal-clear water. As he stooped down to take a drink from the pool, he saw his reflection on the surface of the pool. He fell desperately in love with himself, and seeking to embrace himself, he fell into the water and he drowned. We don’t speak much anymore of the legend of Narcissus. We do, however, use his name to describe those who are hopelessly self-centered and self-absorbed. In fact, narcissism is now identified and catalogued as an official personality disorder by the medical profession. In a broader sense, we use the name to describe one of the great maladies of our 21st century American culture. Ours, in many ways, is a narcissistic culture. We live in an age of entitlement. In fact, about 10 years ago there was book written on the subject. It was titled, The Narcissism Epidemic…Living in an Age of Entitlement. The authors give us a few examples of how our culture has turned in on itself. They write, five times as many Americans undergo plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures as did ten years ago, and ordinary people hire fake paparazzi to follow them around to make them look famous. High school students physically attack classmates and post YouTube videos of the beatings to get attention. For the past several years, Americans have been buying McMansions and expensive cars on credit they can’t afford.” None of this, of course, should surprise us. Consider the contrast set before us in the Gospel reading from Mark 10:35-45. James and John versus Jesus–selfish ambition versus self-sacrifice; wanting to be a lord over others versus being Lord of all, and yet, desiring only to serve. These are two completely different ways of life, two opposing mindsets, two contradictory purposes, even, for life itself.

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