2nd Week of Lent, Wednesday, Mar 3
Jeremiah 18:18-20 / Matthew 20:17-28
Jesus talks about greatness; "The greatest is the one who serves"
Jesus turns the world's value system upside down. He measures a person's greatness very differently from the way the world does.The world measures personal greatness by the number of people one controls, by the number of degrees one holds, by the number of committees one chairs. Jesus considers such numbers to be irrelevant. For Jesus there's only one set of numbers that has any value, and that is the number of people one helps. Service is the thing that counts with Jesus: a nurse's service to patients, a pastor's service to parishioners, a parent's service to children.
Whose value system do we tend to follow in the practical order? "Before the Christian goes to church, let him visit the hospital. Before he reads the Bible, let the Christian help the beggar." Toyohiko Kagawa
A prophet is always an annoying person. His mission is to call attention to the signs of the times – to denounce what no one dares denounce, to prod into action when all stand still and like to take it easy. His task is unpleasant and he carries it out reluctantly. For he is a scared man. He pleads to be excused. For he always gets into trouble. He may even be killed. That was the lot of the prophets before him and then Jesus’ lot – but through his death he won glory and brought life. Those who follow him, however timid they may be as prophets, have to share in this suffering-toward-life. They must at least learn to serve; even dedicated service brings often suffering.
One of the devotions that is highlighted during the season of Lent is the Way of the Cross. The Way of the Cross booklets are taken out during this season (and maybe dusted off and cleaned up) and used on the Fridays of Lent. That gives the idea that it is only during the season of Lent that we do the Way of the Cross. Yet, the reality is that the Stations of the Cross are always a feature in church. And so, it also means that the Way of Cross can and should be a devotional practice even outside of the Lenten season. And rightly so, because the Way of the Cross is the way of life and the way to live for us who are disciples of Jesus.
If anything the season of Lent is to remind us to have a renewed devotion to the Way of the Cross so that in following Jesus, we will understand that we are following Him in His Way of the Cross. And that is the reality of our lives as disciples of Jesus. We have to face our cross and take up our cross and follow Jesus.
And certainly it can be painful and fearful, as it was so in Jeremiah's experience in the 1st reading. Even he had to ask why evil is being returned for good, and that he had even prayed for his enemies. Certainly, to be disciples of Jesus does not mean sitting comfortably at His left and right. It means that like Jesus, we do not ask to be served but to serve and give our lives to Jesus for the ransom of many. May the Way of the Cross help us to understand what that means.
1. Jesus Attempted to Prepare the Disciples: Jesus and the disciples were headed to Jerusalem for the Passover. Soon, Jesus would undergo his Passion. At this point, the disciples were overjoyed because everything was going well. Jesus was attracting huge crowds. He was very popular. They believed he was the Messiah, the descendant of King David who soon would be crowned king! The Passover was the traditional date for crowning Jewish kings and the traditional place was Jerusalem. They thought everything was lining up. And, of course, it was lining up, but not at all as they were expecting. Jesus told them what to expect. Would they listen?
2. Jesus, I Want to Be Grand Poobah!: Like most of the Jews of their time, the disciples believed that the Messiah would be a military leader and political king. They believed he would drive out the Romans and establish a Jewish empire in its place. They expected Jesus to be the Emperor, the new Caesar, and they coveted positions in his cabinet. Perhaps blinded by their expectation of grandeur, they heard Jesus’s words but didn’t understand their meaning. In our own spiritual lives, our expectations and misperceptions can block us from embracing his kingdom as it really is. Let us pray for purity of intention in our thoughts and deeds.
3. Let’s Get Mom to Do It for Us!: It seems that James and John were among the most ambitious of the disciples. They apparently wanted the very top places in Jesus’s new kingdom. We should remember that this Gospel encounter took place after Peter’s confession of faith when Jesus named him the head of the apostles. Peter was already second in the coming kingdom and all the apostles knew it. Furthermore, Peter was probably James’s and John’s closest friend among the Apostles. They’d known him all their lives. Still, it seemed that the glory of the top positions in the kingdom was so attractive to them that they were willing to risk the ire of their fellow Apostles. Their mom asked, but James and John must have discussed it with her. At this point in their journey, these two were far from being able to understand Jesus’s prediction of his Passion and the kind of kingdom he intended to establish.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I confess that I sometimes crave power, fame, and wealth—maybe not in really obvious ways, but in my heart. Help me to lovingly embrace the struggle to forget myself and always work for you and for others.
Prayer: Lord our God, your prophets remind us in season and out of season of our responsibilities toward you and toward the world of people. When they disturb and upset us, let it be a holy disturbance that makes us restless, eager to do your will and to bring justice and love around us. We ask you this through Christ our Lord. Amen