If Heaven is the ‘great banquet’ it is said to be, there must surely be ‘high tables’ and ‘low tables’ there. If one thing can be safely concluded from Jesus’ answer to the mother of the sons of Zebedee regarding seat reservations for them at his right hand and left, it is that positional hierarchy exists there also!
So what are these high tables and how are they allotted? The high table represents a greater proximity to the divine essence as compared to the low table. ‘High’ and ‘Low’ could also refer to the degree of clarity with which one beholds the Beatific Vision. The one with the greatest proximity to the Triune God is obviously the Son of Man (Jesus in his human nature), who is seated at the right hand of the Father. He occupies the number one spot, not by virtue of designation, but by merit of having endured more testing than anybody else. At number two would come Mary the Mother of God, and after her would come the apostles, followed by the martyrs. Toward bottom would come the aborted fetuses and the children who died in infancy (since their faith wasn’t really ‘tested’).
Even if we might not be ambitious on the worldly scale, it is definitely worth trying to make it to the high table of the heavenly banquet. As baptized persons our entry into heaven is more or less a ‘done deal’ subject to purgatory provisions. The only differentiator as far as seating protocol is concerned would be the level of testing that each of us has undergone in this life. Jesus, responding to the mother of James and John, asked them whether they were ready to drink of his “cup”? By “cup” he meant intense suffering or testing. From this we can conclude that there is a direct co-relation between the quantum of testing and the position at the banqueting table, and therefore if we are half clever, we should voluntarily ask God for more testing. We can do so with confidence since we know that God wants us to succeed and therefore He shall not test us beyond our capacity, and even if He does so, he shall correspondingly build up our capacities.
In earthly corporations, bosses value employees who proactively come forward and ask for more responsibilities. It is mainly such people who get successive promotions. In the parable of the talents, the servant who was entrusted with ten talents was probably a go-getter and risk-taker, whereas the servant who was entrusted with the single talent would probably have been a shirker or someone who was happy in his comfort zone. Naturally, the rewards were in proportion. The master would have probably patted himself on the back in retrospect, for his foresight in not wasting resources on the good-for-nothing fellow.
Ultimately we urgently need to introspect whether we are sacrificing our place at the high table of the Great Banquet by hesitating to pro-actively ask for more testing? Many of the saints might have been onto this secret because we read of them voluntarily asking God to send them more testing/suffering (a recent example being St. Alphonsa Muttathapadathu of Kerala). To conclude, if invoking testing/suffering from God is the right stepping stone to a place at the high table, shouldn’t we be doing so proactively, rather than letting things happen at their own pace and wasting precious time?