We usually think that Lent is a personal journey, but that’s not all it is. Lent is a time for the church and the world itself to make a journey to renewal.
“We” are going up to Jerusalem, Jesus says to his disciples in Matthew’s gospel and they follow him to the place of challenge and reward, to be renewed by the graces of his paschal mystery. “We”, the church and all creation, are called.
On the journey, the mother James and John saw an opportunity for herself and her sons. “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 not to be served, but to serve. It will cost them and 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.”
The mother’s request for power won’t be the last request like that disciples of Jesus make. It’s a temptation most of us share. The church has always been beset by members using its resources and power for themselves. That’s why Jesus’ words are so important to hear during Lent. Serving others is a good part of the cross we should bear.
This gospel follows yesterday’s that featured sharp criticism of the synagogues of Matthew’s day. Most likely, in today’s gospel Matthew’s reminding the Jewish Christians of his day that before they criticize others they should take a look at themselves.
Good to listen to our criticism of others; it’s probably a mirror of ourselves.
Writing to his brothers and sisters after his mother’s death, Paul of the Cross urged them to love and serve one another: “Obey one another, especially the younger toward the older although with you there should be no seniority. Be humble, wait upon one another, console one another. I particularly recommend that you respect your sisters much, showing them all possible deference, treating them charitably, and assisting them in all their needs.” (Letter 21)
Make me one who serves,
like you, O Lord.
At the table of life,
let me bend down to wash the feet of others;
help me give my life for them.