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,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.”
We usually think of Lent as a personal journey, a time to tune-up spiritually. But that’s not all it is. Lent is also a time for the church to be renewed.
“We” are going up to Jerusalem, Jesus tells his disciples, and announces his coming sufferings and death. His disciples follow him to the holy place where challenge and reward awaits, as Matthew’s gospel says. Through the ages, his church will be renewed by the graces of his paschal mystery in the world and time in which it lives.
The mother of James and John on that journey with her sons evidently saw the holy city as a place of opportunity for herself and them. “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” She’s looking for power and prestige.
Jesus reminds her that his followers are to serve and not be served. It’s a service that will cost them, not make them rich, for “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
As a church of disciples, the church must serve the world in which it lives and its members must serve each other, but like the mother of James and John, it’s always beset by the temptation to look for and hold on to power and prestige. In Lent Jesus calls his church to humble service : “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”
A cross stands atop our churches as a proclamation of belief in Jesus Christ. It’s also a promise to serve the world as Jesus did.