Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve….You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.—Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 –1968: was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.)
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 conflict between Jesus’ insistence on the necessity of his death and the resistance to grasping its significance on the part of his followers opens us to the central contradiction preached by Jesus in word and in deed: dying is the path to life. The struggle to hear this message and to stake our lives on it is our challenge this Lent as well. Saying yes to a time of prayer instead of another entertainment presents a challenge. It costs something to be more sparing in our enjoyment of food or other pleasures. Making time to be with someone who needs our time, our love and our attention means saying no to some other activity. In all of these, we are called to trust that Jesus’ way, his life’s pattern, is indeed the path to life. May we allow Jesus to accompany us along the way so that his dying and rising might be in us.