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All humanity is involved
Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. He took the Twelve aside to announce to them, for the third time, his destiny. He announced something while starting to do it: going up to Jerusalem for his Passion. This third prediction is more precise than the first two. This time, Jesus’ description of his Passion is more awful and more painful: he will be mocked, scourged and crucified. This time, it is not only the Jews who are responsible for Jesus’ death, but also the Gentiles. The whole of humanity is involved in it. Strangely enough, however, the Apostles don’t react directly to this announcement. When Jesus announced his Passion for the first time, Peter rebuked him (Mt 16:22). The second time, the crowd was overwhelmed with grief (Mt 17:23). But here, the Apostles’ reaction is subsumed by their desire for power, which follows in our text.
Suddenly, the mother of James and of John approaches Jesus. She is not one of the Twelve, and so she is not aware of Jesus’ Passion prediction. Maybe because of that, her request is so audacious. She wishes that her sons sit at the right and at the left of Jesus in his kingdom. Her vision is one of glory without the passion.
Even though the mother makes the request, Jesus addresses the sons directly. James and John express their willingness to drink the chalice of the Passion in order to participate in Jesus’ glory. Jesus sees that they don’t really know what they are asking. As a good teacher, Jesus corrects his disciples’ misunderstanding. By doing so, he enables them to be more realistic. At the same time, he encourages them to be in communion with him: “My chalice, you will indeed drink.” He leads them to purify their desire for him and for his kingdom.
When the other ten disciples hear this, they become indignant. They show that kind of feeling because they too want to have a place of honor. Continuing as a good teacher, Jesus profits from the situation to lead his disciples to understand better their way of living and serving: “whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.” To be sure, Jesus doesn’t suggest a new model for society where the servant commands the master or the student teaches the professor. Rather, Jesus invites those who are in a position of authority to undertake a spiritual conversion.
To commit to a spiritual conversion is to commit to a change: change of mentality and of heart to place the self-giving gift at the service of others. The desire to serve comes first, in the family, in the workplace and in the city. It embraces every single decision that we make. In the light of the Passion, of the supreme self-giving gift, the desire to serve others must animate the whole motivation of our mission. Serving others, serving them to the end.
Prayer: God of power, purify our desires so that we can use our gifts to serve others selflessly.
Resolution: Commit myself to a spiritual conversion and think about what authority really means.