Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Reflection: Matthew 20:17-28
Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent – Matthew 20:17-28
Today’s Gospel reading is pretty sobering! Jesus and the disciples are going up to Jerusalem and Jesus wants to prepare them for what lies ahead for him as well as for them. He warns his disciples that he will be handed over to the scribes and chief priests. Not only that, but Jesus also tells them that he will be condemned to death, mocked, scourged and crucified. Take a moment and imagine the disciples’ response to Jesus’ words. Were they frightened for Jesus? Were they also frightened for themselves? Jesus then tells them that he will be raised up on the third day. What are the disciples to make of that statement?
The focus of the Gospel shifts as the mother of sons of Zebedee comes up to Jesus. She has a request for Jesus. When she approaches Jesus, he asks her what she wants. The woman, who bold both in her behavior and her request, told Jesus that she wants her sons sit with Jesus in his kingdom – one at his right hand and the other at his left.
The other apostles were with Jesus during this encounter. How do you think they reacted to this mother’s request? After all, what made her sons so special? What about them? Several of them had been with Jesus longer than her sons had. Notice that initially Jesus does not answer her question directly. Rather, he speaks of the difficult path that is before him. Then he tells the woman that it is not his place to name the people who would be on his right and his left. His Father will make that decision.
When the other disciples hear her request, they are angry and indignant with her. Jesus then uses this occasion to teach his disciples. He gathers them together and tells them that they should not lord their call and authority over anyone. Rather, their focus should be on serving each one another and the people to whom they were ministering. Jesus wanted them to have the right motivation for their ministry. It was not to be about power and acclaim. Their ministry was to preach His word and to serve the people.
Motivations can be tricky. We can fool ourselves into believing that we are doing something good for another, when the reality is we also might receive a payoff. It might be be a word of thanks, a hug, or self-satisfaction.
Hopefully, our service comes from our desire to help others. True service is not about power or acclaim. If our service flows from our love of God and humankind, God is there with us.
Today we may receive a helping hand from someone we do not expect. There is the saying: “What goes around, comes around.” If we help others and care about the people in our lives as well as all the people on this planet, one day our gift may return to us. The gift we give may become the gift we receive.