Readings: Jeremiah 18:18-20, Ps. 31:5-6,14-16, Matthew 20:17-28

“The Son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

We have seen that one of the temptations of God’s ministers is living a double life. Another temptation is the desire for power (earthly glory). In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus teaches that the criteria for greatness in God’s kingdom is servitude. When we seek power and comfort like worldly leaders, we become wolves feeding on our sheep (being served) rather than shepherds who feed the sheep (serving them). Let us now examine today’s lessons:

1. Are You Prepared to Drink the Cup? The mother of James and John brought her sons to Jesus to say: “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right and one at your left in your kingdom.” Jesus did not condemn James and John for being so ambitious. Rather, He asked a very important question: “Can you drink the chalice I am to drink?” There is nothing wrong with aspiring for heaven; however, the Book of Sirach says: “My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.” (Sirach 2:1). By ‘chalice’ Jesus was talking about the cross, yet, without waiting for their mother to speak, James and John responded: “We are able.”

2. Like James and John, We said “Yes” to God on the Day of Our Baptism: In the sacrament of confirmation, we agreed to become soldiers for God. At ordination (or profession of religious vows), I said, “Yes, I do” loudly. On your wedding day, you joyfully said: “Yes”. While we were looking forward to glorious days afterwards, we failed to realise that saying “Yes” also meant following behind Jesus’ footsteps on the ‘narrow road’ under the excruciating weight of the cross. To be Christians, we cannot escape painful ordeals such as those that Jeremiah faced in today’s first reading. Jesus prophesied: “Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.” (John 16:2)

3. Drinking the Cup Does Not guarantee seats of Honour; serving Others Does. Jesus said to James and John: “You will drink my chalice, but to sit at my right and left is not mine to grant but those whom my Father has prepared it.” Whether we like it or not, we will all face tough times, but the weight of our crosses does not translate into the type of seats we would occupy in heaven. Jesus said, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first must be your slave.” In other words, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12, Luke 14:11, 18:14)  

4. If you Find Yourself in a Position of Service, Consider it a Privilege. Reflecting on the life of Christ, St. Paul teaches: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God also highly exalted him and gave him the name above every name.” (Philippians 2:5-9). There is more honour in being a servant than in being served by others.

5. Don’t Hate Your Enemies, Surrender Them to God: The prayer of Jeremiah in today’s first reading gives us a format of how we are to pray amid persecution, especially when it is orchestrated by persons we have helped in the past. Like Jesus in the hands of Judas Iscariot, Jeremiah was betrayed by his friends. It is easy to let go of wounds from a stranger, but when such a wound comes from a friend, it is like a ‘sword piercing through your soul.” Jeremiah asked: “Is evil a recompense for good?” Don’t succumb to hating them lest you become like them. Just ask God to fight for you.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, teach me to find joy in being a servant. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Wednesday of the 2nd week of Lent. Bible Study: Jeremiah 18:18-20, Ps. 31:5-6,14-16, Matthew 20:17-28).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu