Scripture (Matthew 20:17-28)
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem,
he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves,
and said to them on the way,
"Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests
and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death,
and hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and scourged and crucified,
and he will be raised on the third day."
Then 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."
A year ago, today I began working in a small town in Oklahoma at a Christian summer camp. As I returned the U-Haul the man at the counter said, “What the heck brought you here?” I get that a lot as my Wisconsin accent betrays that I not native to Oklahoma. The only response I had and one I use over and over is God. Never, could I have imagined that I’d move to Oklahoma. God persisted, and I had to follow the lead of the Spirit.
In today’s Gospel, the mother of James and John ambitiously asks Jesus for the top two positions of power for her sons. What parent doesn’t want the best for their child? Most often our family and friends are going to encourage us to pursue positions that are viewed to be prestigious, offer a high salary, or a located at the top of the organization chart. I know my own family would often counsel me saying well you could do this job or that, you’ll make more money, the organization is more well-known, and the list goes on.
For Jesus, the kingdom of God has different rules. His Kingdom is a Kingdom of opposites. In the Heavenly Kingdom, the lowest position should be the most sought after. Jesus tells us that if we want to be the greatest and first, we need to take a position of service and that of a slave, one of the least honorable titles. In Jesus’s time not only did slaves do what they were told by their master, but they were also loved and cared for like an adopted member of their master’s family. Jesus is an example of this service and of complete submission to the Father’s will.
The Gospel ends telling us that Jesus’s life of service and full submission to the Father’s will to the point of death will accomplish something we cannot do with ours. His life will bring ransom to many. His life will be payment to free the slave. When we become slaves to the Father and follow His commands, we aren’t bonded or chained. We are freed and loved and lifted up to the top spot in the Father’s heart, a heart so big there is plenty of room for all of us there.
Moving to Oklahoma, which was a complete move in trusting the Spirit and submitting to the Lord’s will, has not been all sunshine and rainbows. God did not promise us a smooth road paved in gold. When he asks, “Can you drink the chalice I am going to drink?”, he warns us that it’s going to be painful. We will be mocked and persecuted by those who do not understand God’s will for us. As his good and faithful servants, we know that the Lord will be with us on the rocky road that leads to the joy of the Resurrection and complete freedom found in his love.
This year has been a year of testing in continual obedience to the Father. There are plenty of times when my ego has gotten in the way of submitting to God and has made the road even bumpier and lined the road with more tears than necessary. Yet, when I humble myself and place my trust fully in the Lord, there is freedom, peace and a joy that can only be found God’s love.
- Do I spend more time seeking the top spot in the world of in the Father’s heart?
- Where would I like to experience more of God’s freedom and love in my life?
- What can I do to more fully follow God’s plan for me in that area of my life?
These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc. Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018. Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.
PRAY for the strength to remain faithful to God’s will through any pain and suffering.
FAST from something that distracts you from seeking the lowest place.
GIVE time to those you live on the margins.
You have come to serve the world. Pour your Spirit down on me so that I may know and go where you are calling me to serve others. Guide me as I rush to the lowest place to serve the poor, the lonely, the marginalized. You have come to ransom the slave. Thank you, Lord from breaking me from the bondage of the fear that comes from chasing the desires of the world. Thank you for unending, unconditional love.
Julie Trzebiatowski is the Camp Director for Shepherd's Fold Ranch in Avant, Oklahoma. Before moving to Oklahoma, she had been involved in teaching Theology and leading retreats in Milwaukee. Julie has always been a fan of John Paul II.