The Gospel according to Matthew (20:20-28)
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, 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.”
Reflection: Today, we remember St James, the son of Zebedee. The Gospels tell us that James and his brother John were among Jesus’ first disciples. We don’t hear a lot from James directly, other than when he and John asked Jesus to let them call down fire on the Samaritans (hence their nickname by Jesus: “Sons of Thunder”). And, then we have the story from today, where Matthew recounts that their mother asks Jesus to give James and John the positions of honor in His Kingdom. We know from the Acts of the Apostles that James was the first of the twelve to be martyred, not that long after Jesus returned to heaven.
So what do we take from today’s story in particular? For me, the lesson is in the words toward the end of the Gospel: “whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” In the time since I was ordained a deacon, I’ve been blessed to be given respect and kindness, just because I’m ordained. I know that it’s not anything of my own that causes that – it’s all the gift of God through His Holy Spirit. Furthermore, as a deacon, I am the image of “Christ the Servant”, and am called to be of service above all.
That same rule applies to all of us, ordained or not. We are called to serve others, not because we may get recognition for doing so, but because Jesus left us that example. It’s a way that is very much counter to our secular society which tells us to take care of ourselves first. Jesus knew that His disciples would be swimming against the current. That’s one of the reasons He gave us His promise that His own Holy Spirit would be there with us, reminding us of all that He taught. May we see our role in God’s Kingdom to be one of humble, loving service, and may we do it, knowing that we are following in the example of Jesus Himself.
Action for the Day: Is there someone in your life (a neighbor, friend or family member) who could benefit from humble service from you? Ask God to show that person to you, and then go and be of service. Afterward, give thanks to God for carrying part of the load for Him today! If you would like to hear this reflection, click the link below!