Scripture: 1st Reading: Jer18,18-20; Resp. Psalm: Ps31,5-6,14-16; Gosp. Accl.: Jn8,12; Gospel: Mt20,17-28
Our world hates the truth. The world loves falsehood and propagates errors since a good number prefer darkness to the light. Prophets, whether in ancient or modern times, as people who were sent with messages that were not their own and this had the responsibility to relay same without any compromise, often find themselves in mortal danger. This is because many times, the people who love darkness also hold the levers of power and instruments of domination.
The world in the time of Prophet Jeremiah was wicked and godless. The prophet was sent to them for a change of heart and approach to life. In today's first reading, we see the response to Jeremiah's message: plots were made against him to silence him forever. His sin was the content of the message he preached. For that message, he must die; law, wisdom and prophecy must not be allowed to flourish.
The thought was that the end of Jeremiah would be the end of the mission of the prophet and abandonment of his teaching by the people. Jeremiah did only good. He was being repaid with evil. Jeremiah wanted life for them; they dug a pit for his life; he stood before Yahweh to plead for them to turn away Yahweh's anger from them; they repaid him by seeking his life to end it.
As it happened to Jeremiah, so also it was to the Son of man. Today, our Lord made the prediction about His impending death. Those who would deliver Him to death were those who should have been in the vanguard for the enthronement of the truth. He predicted that they would hand Him over to the gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified. In other words, He would suffer terribly and die ignominiously. He would die a pathetic and shameful death. The death penalty would be by crucifixion, a horrible roman way of executing public offenders.
His leadership, exaltation and glorification would proceed from the fact that He lowered Himself, gave Himself up as a ransom. His glorification would come from His obedience to His Father who offered Him the cup of suffering to drink. This important aspect was lost on the sons of Zebedee and their mother.
In today's gospel, the mother came to plead for her son's elevation in the political kingdom they thought our Lord intended to establish. They wanted the second and third most important positions. They as yet did not understand that elevation proceeded from self emptying, glorification from humility, leadership from self sacrificial service.
They were not alone unfortunately. The word of God recounts today in the gospel that when the Ten heard it, they were indignant with the brothers. So, the jostling for position, the intrigues to outmaneuver one another, the desire for vainglory, power and the privileges attached to it, was a spiritual disease that also afflicted the Apostles.
Our Lord used the occasion to teach them one very important lesson of life and discipleship: whoever would be great must be a servant; whoever would be first must be the slave. The model of leadership presented by the gentiles was false and misleading. Leadership has a model and only one model: the Son of man "who came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." In that message, our Lord encapsulated His mission and the end that would be His lot.
Lent focuses our attention on the price our Lord paid for our ransom. It focuses our contemplation on the cross on which He died. As the suffering servant, Lent makes us realize that our lives can only have meaning if they are modelled on the example our Lord left us. Lent reminds us that no matter the circumstance of life, we must always stay by the truth, which is the only thing capable of setting us free.
Let us pray: "Keep your family, O Lord, schooled always in good works, and so comfort them with your protection here as to lead them graciously to gifts on high." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.