Here’s What I Was Thinking/Wait, How about This Instead?

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Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

Matthew 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.” 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.” 
 
Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to pray with my heart rather than with my head, so I can meet you heart to heart in this meditation, be won over by you, and desire to become a part of the kingdom of your merciful love rather than the worldly kingdoms of power, fame, and wealth.  
 
Encountering Christ: 

  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?
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
 
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make a special effort to direct praise toward someone for something good he or she has done. 
 
For Further Reflection: A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World by Carl Anderson. 
 
Father James Swanson is from Miles City, Montana, joined the Legionaries of Christ in 1983, and currently works in Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys books, craft beers, and extreme birding.

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