Humble Servitude

Scripture Reading

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.”
(Matthew 20:17-28)

Scripture Study

20:17–19 Jesus’ third Passion prediction is detailed. Unlike in the previous ones (16:21; 17:22–23), he foresees the collaboration of Jewish leaders (20:18) with Roman authorities (20:19) in bringing about his death by means of crucifixion (20:19).

20:20 the sons of Zebedee: James and John (4:21). Along with Peter, they form a privileged inner circle of Jesus’ disciples (17:1; 26:37; Mk 5:37).

20:22 drink the chalice: An OT metaphor that describes God’s wrath poured upon the wicked (Ps 75:8; Is 51:17; Jer 25:15). Here it denotes Jesus’ Passion endured for sinners (20:28; 26:39; 1 Pet 2:24). James and John are assured (20:23) a share in this Passion, a prediction partially fulfilled with the martyrdom of James in Acts 12:2.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel the mother of James and John asks Jesus on their behalf to place them in high places in his kingdom. They are asking for two of the classic four substitutes for God: wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. The two brothers specifically want the last two. Power is not, in itself, a bad thing. And the same is true of honor. Thomas Aquinas said that honor is the flag of virtue. It’s a way of signaling to others something that’s worth noticing.

So then what’s the problem? The problem is that they are asking for these two things in the wrong spirit. The ego will want to use power, not for God’s purposes or in service of truth, beauty, and goodness, but for its own aggrandizement and defense. When honor is sought for its own sake or in order to puff up the ego, it becomes dangerous as well.

What’s the way out? Jesus tells us: “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all; whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.” When you serve others, when you become the least, you are accessing the power of God and seeking the honor of God.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.