I recall the summer of 1980 when I went to stay with my Grandparents for six weeks. They had a 10-unit apartment building on the Intracoastal in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, a very prominent area of town. My plan was to work for my grandfather painting, doing yardwork and basic upkeep. I had calculated the amount of money I would make by working 40 hours a week for the entire time and it would give me just enough to purchase a new synthesizer. I was a budding musician and it was an ambitious endeavor to say the least. My grandparent’s plan was to have an extended visit and help me with some spending cash by paying me to do some chores a few hours a day for the duration. Needless to say, I couldn’t afford the purchase when I returned but left with memories that remain with me today – a much greater reward in hindsight.
I went on after high school to work for my father hanging wallpaper and eventually started my own wallpaper business. When he lost a battle to lung cancer a few years later I was left with a profitable trade-and an appreciation for the gift of music and the time we shared doing both. I was ambitious and successfully remained in that business for nearly 10 years until I had epiphany.
Through a series of events I had a spiritual awakening in my late 20’s. Interestingly, I lost my ambition to seek fame and fortune but found a new ambition, sharing the Gospel. You see, my value system was altered and my new ambition was driven by the Holy Spirit. I remained in youth ministry for 10 years, went on to Catholic publishing for 11 years and have just embarked on a journey as a parish DRE. The fruits of my youth ministry can be seen today in many of the youth who became productive citizens driven by Gospel values. A few have become youth ministers or teachers and many are parents raising their children as faithful Catholics while maintaining productive value-driven jobs.
In the Gospel today, we hear of the mother of two of the disciples who also had an ambition. She asked Jesus to seat them at his right and left and he said she didn’t know what she was asking. Is it possible we have ambition without really knowing what we’re after?
The thing is, there are two kinds of ambition, the worldly and the otherworldly. One seeks prominence and the other servitude.
Jesus had a secret ambition. He was to be the King the Jewish people had been waiting for, only they couldn’t easily grasp what that meant. He was to usher in a new Kingdom of love, service and sacrifice.
In spite of two thousand years of faith and Tradition, we still struggle today with ambition. As we continue our journey through the season of Advent, let us pause to ponder what is truly meant and implied by our Lord’s secret ambition.