A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 20:17-28
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. 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.”
REFLECTION: "Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave."
Fifteen years ago in Washington DC, we were at the Union Pacific Station. Usually after 6 pm when the rush of commuters left, the homeless would come in and were allowed to stay indoors for shelter. We left with the crowd but about one block away I noticed that my camera was missing. We went back to the area where the camera was left. An elderly homeless man was sitting at that bench. I asked him if he had seen the camera and he directed me to the security office. Since any package left unattended would be considered high risk, my camera had been confiscated and inspected for a possible bomb. When I went back to thank the homeless man, he acknowledged my thank you, but did not make eye contact. When I offered $20 he refused to accept it. At that very moment he literally became, right in front of me, Jesus in the Breadline figure, and in a split second he was the homeless man again. I had never seen Christ of the Breadlines by Fritz Eichenberg til years later when I received it as a gift.
In today's gospel, there are three parts to study. The first is the passion of which Jesus reminds the disciples for the third time, that He will suffer and die. With this knowledge, Jesus continues walking calmly toward Jerusalem. He knew He would be mocked, kicked, spit upon, beaten and slapped even by a lowly servant of the Judge. Eventually after a long dragged out torture He will be crucified and die to save us.
The second part is the reckoning with the mother of James and John, the jealousy of the apostles of who would be first, and Jesus warning His disciples of the Bitter Cup He is to drink and that they, too, would have to drink. Jesus Christ, by example, shows how to carry the Cross, no complaining, no grumbling, no anger, no revenge but in total obedience to His Father. He reminds us that through the suffering of the Cross, we are not just His companions merely observing on the sideline, but we become one with Him, partaking of His passion, when we drink the bitter cup. Our self offering can still await us, but Jesus promises to stay with us. He asks us not to turn our eyes away from His passion.
The third part is servitude. There is no truer spiritual greatness than to partake in the Lord's suffering passion. And the Lord says, "Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave". To be great in the eyes of God, we must serve. And to serve, we must suffer like Christ and we must confront evil.
My time in DC was an encounter with God. May our priests take up their bitter cup, never refuse it, and may they humbly serve their flock. Please pray the Prayer for Priests.
God Bless You