Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Just like the mother of the sons of Zebedee, we all ache for greatness, but we often don’t really understand what true greatness is. Saints are not made through earthly glory; rather, the greatest saints lived as servants to their brothers and sisters.
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati could have embraced the wealth and prosperity into which he was born, but he had the clarity to see that these were not the treasures worth having. He could have lived a cushy life, being served by others, but instead he tirelessly served the poor and gave away what money he could. He placed no value on riches or prestige; rather, he worked for the glory of God and the glory of Heaven.
This, of course, does not mean that in order to be holy we must resign ourselves to a miserable life, or that we should allow our spirits to be crushed by the inevitability of suffering. No, as St. Teresa said, the Lord does not want sour-faced saints. We are called to suffer, but through the grace of God, we are not expected to be desolate. He will give us a joy that will sustain us through trials, and the peace and understanding in knowing that all our sacrifices have meaning.
Pier Giorgio renounced so many material goods and comforts, and yet he never lost his joyful disposition. He once said, “A Catholic cannot help but be happy; sadness should be banished from their souls.” It was in this very detachment from material wealth that he experienced true freedom and joy. In letting go of earthly goods, and in giving his time and resources to serve others, he allowed Christ to loosen the chains that bound him to meaningless comforts. It didn’t upset him to sacrifice the things he owned because he was not enslaved to them. This detachment enabled Pier Giorgio to serve others with joy.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
—2 Cor 4:8–10