16TH MARCH 2022
Readings: Jer 18:18-20; Ps 31:5-6.14-16; Gospel: Matthew 20:17-28
WHOEVER WOULD BE GREAT AMONG YOU MUST BE YOUR SERVANT
Today in the gospel, Jesus is aware of the religious leaders who are planning on condemning Him and that He will end up dying as a result of their actions. He is willing to go forward with this because He knows it is part of His Father’s plan. When James and John agreed that they would drink from the same cup Jesus would drink, they also agreed that they would face suffering and opposition in order to continue Jesus’ ministry. Jesus explains to his disciples that, to get a position of honor in God’s kingdom, they won’t be judged by the number of people serving them but instead on the number of people they served. Being a prophet of God is not easy because God’s will often end up in earthly suffering but that suffering will give us the chance to sit at the sides of God in His kingdom. We too must serve our neighbors if we are to be fit for heaven. and in serving our neighbors we are serving our God.
Mothers always want the best for their children. The mother of James and John asks Jesus for the best places in His Kingdom for her two sons. She interceded with Jesus on behalf of her sons. However, her request, her prayer, was not one that Jesus could respond to. Jesus did not respond to every request that was made of Him; not every prayer we make is answered; especially according to our will. Instead of responding to the mother’s request, Jesus, instead, made His own request to her two sons, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Mt 20:23). Jesus was asking James and John if they were ready to follow Him, even though it would mean traveling the way of the cross.
Her prayer of intercession for her sons was not very enlightened; Paul in his letter to the Romans says that “we do not know how to pray as we ought”. He also says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness because the Spirit ‘intercedes with signs too deep for words”. Paul is implying that although we often do not know how to pray properly, the Spirit within us intercedes appropriately for us. When our prayer is in tune with that deep prayer of the Spirit, then our prayer is acceptable to the Lord. The prayer of the mother of the two disciples was not acceptable to the Lord, well-intentioned as it was. She was looking for status and honor for her sons. This is not a prayer in keeping with the Spirit of Jesus because He gave up all status and honor for our sake, giving His life for us in the dishonorable death of crucifixion.
In the gospel reading, Jesus calls on us to follow His example of taking the path of self-emptying service of others. This is the path the Spirit moves us to take and the prayer that the Spirit inspires in us will be in harmony with this path of self-emptying love of others.
Like the mother of James and John, we often ask the Lord for something in prayer. Today’s gospel reminds us that the Lord also asks us of something; He asks us of nothing other than ourselves; He asks us to give ourselves to Him and for His people as He gave up Himself for us on the cross.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, intercede for us so that, day by day we may become more like our Master, who did not come to be served but to serve (Mt 20:28).