Monday, July 25, 2016

Reflection: Matthew 20:20-28

Saint James the Apostle, Feast – Matthew 20:20-28

Today we hear the familiar story of a mother who had two sons.  The mother approached Jesus and gave him homage.  Jesus then asked her what she desired.  She immediately told him: “Command that my sons will sit, one at your right and the other on your left hand in your Kingdom.”  Jesus must have been shocked!  He had received many strange requests; however, this woman was bolder in her request (or demand) than anyone else who had ever approached him.

Most likely, the mother believed that her request would bring her two sons power, fame, and fortune.  However, Jesus knew that His Kingdom was radically different from what she thought it was.  Being part of Jesus’ kingdom would mean that her sons would have to suffer. 

Jesus told the woman: “Truly, you do not know what you are asking.”  He then asked if her sons were ready to drink from the cup that He would drink from and immediately her sons replied that they were ready to do so.  Jesus then told the mother and the sons that it was not His place to decide who would sit at his right and left hand.  His Father would make that decision.

The disciples were extremely angry and upset with the brothers.  After all, they all had been with Jesus for a long time.  Perhaps they also were hoping that they would be the ones who would sit at Jesus’ right or left hand.  Jesus then warned his disciples of the danger of desiring power.

Power often corrupts the individuals who wield it.  Jesus bluntly told his disciples that it should be radically different with them.  Rather than desiring to wield power over others, they should desire to serve one another.  Jesus told them that this would make them great.  And if they truly wished to be His disciples, they were to follow his example and serve others, not be served by others!

There is almost an innate desire within human beings for acclaim, recognition and appreciation. All of these gifts are proper and good in moderation.  However, individuals who receive abundant acclaim or praise often are tempted and they develop a big (and unhealthy) ego.  Jesus wanted His disciples to be humble.

Humility does not mean groveling or demeaning yourself.  Humility comes from the root word, humus.  Humus is an organic component of soil that is derived from decomposed plants, animal remains, and animal excrement.  To us, this may sound unappealing.   However, humus adds many nutrients to the soil.  It aids water retention and thus makes the soil more workable and productive.

Our “humility” may be challenged when we experience the reality that we are far from perfect.  As we acknowledge this reality, we can be angry about it or we can use this difficult and painful experience to add nutrients to our inner soil.  If we do this, our rich inner soil will enable us to be more fruitful in our lives.   If we truly are humble, we will serve others, share our resources, and be content.  We will not need to be the first nor will we need acclaim.

Humility requires that we simply be who we are and share this fragile and imperfect gift, with the people in our lives.  God has gifted us!  Every day Jesus invites us to generously share our gifts, our love and our attention with others. However, he hopes that we will do this in a simple and unobtrusive way.  When we share our gifts and love in this manner, truly we are following in the footsteps of Jesus.  For what more could we ask?

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