While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Today’s gospel reading expresses the continual challenge of Christ’s call to discipleship. From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus has preached a kingdom that entails a complete reversal of social values and expectations. Jesus’ call to serve rather than to be served goes against everything our society teaches us about success and happiness; perhaps it is a contradiction of human nature itself.
We all want what is best for ourselves and the ones that we love, as the mother of James and John desires a privileged position for her sons. The strange thing about her request, though, is that she makes it immediately after Jesus quite clearly predicts his own suffering and death. The mother hasn’t been able to truly hear Jesus in what he has been suggesting will bring fullness of life for her and her two sons. So, she doesn’t even “know what she is asking.” Jesus, however, knows that James and John will eventually share Jesus’ cup and serve the kingdom of God in his way.
Lent is a good time to pause to ask ourselves if we are truly hearing Jesus’ call to serve the kingdom of God, or if we have distorted that message and turned it into what we wish to hear, or what our society wants us to hear.
—Tom Weiler is a teacher in the department of Religious Studies and the moderator of Club Vinyl at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.
O Jesus, I come before you at the
beginning of this day.
I gaze at your face, I look upon
your side pierced by the lance.
Your wounded heart speaks to me of
God’s love poured out for us.
Take, Lord, and receive my heart:
the words of faith that I speak,
the works of justice I would do,
my joys and sufferings.
When I come to the Eucharistic table,
gather my offerings to your own
for the life of the world.
At the end of the day, place me
with Mary, your mother,
and for her sake take me to
—Fr. James Devereux, S.J.
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