“Love cannot remain by itself -- it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service” - Mother Teresa
Gospel text (Mt 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."
"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."
This Lent, Jesus is asking us: "Can you drink of the cup?" (Mt 20:22) Jesus tries to change us from being self- seeking to cross-carrying.
We all have a natural tendency towards a desire to dominate or subjugate things and people, to command and to order, to have things done as per our wishes, to have others accept our status, our position. But, now, Jesus is proposing to us just the opposite: «Whoever wants to be more important in your group shall make himself your servant» (Mt 20:26-27). We cannot just take these words at their face value!; we have heard them hundreds of times, sure, but now we must be able to assimilate the reality of what they actually mean, and confront it with our attitude and most importantly our behavior.
The II Vatican Council asserts «that man achieves his prime of life through dedication and commitment to others». We may be under the impression we are giving away life, but, in fact, we are retrieving it. He who does not live to serve does not serve to live. And, in this attitude Christ should be our perfect model —Jesus is fully man—, inasmuch as «the Son of man has come, not to be served but to serve and to give his life to redeem many» (Mt 20:28).
To become a servant, a slave, as Jesus calls us upon, is something almost impossible for us. It falls short of our weak will: so we are to implore, to hope for and to profoundly wish these gifts are granted to us. Lent and its Lenten practices —fasting, charity and prayer— remind us that to receive these gifts we have to prepare ourselves adequately.
Yet will we decide and are we deciding to drink of the cup? (Mt 20:22).