29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s gospel passage reports the well-known incident when James and John asked Jesus to promise them a favor. “Grant that in your glory, we may sit one at your left and the other at your right.” They asked this question immediately after Jesus had revealed to them, for the third time, that his passion and death were imminent. They hadn’t been listening to him. They remembered the glory they had seen just a short time ago when they witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration. They wanted that piece of that power and that glory.
I think that most of us give a slight nod to this passage. “James and John, you should have known better, tut, tut. Shame on you.” And we move on. Well, at the time of the writing of the Gospels, this incident was a scandal. So much so that when the account was later repeated in the Gospel of Matthew, the MOTHER of James and John was reported asking that special favor, not James and John. It was too scandalous for two revered Apostles to have stooped so low. So, Matthew blamed mom.
Why isn’t this incident scandalous to us? I believe it’s because we make this all about Jesus, not us. He told them that day, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as the ransom for many.” We listen to that and reflect on Jesus’ self-sacrifice, but we shy away from his second teaching, “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”
Jesus was teaching that giving up one’s life doesn’t always mean martyrdom. It means making the gift of self, offering oneself to God, diminishing one’s ego, and committing one’s self to the service of others, especially the poor. This is the way of the cross, the path the disciple is called to follow. This is the glory road.
Lord Jesus. I want to be your disciple, and I want to offer you the gift of myself. In my work and my daily life, I want to redirect my energy towards others. I wish to diminish so that you may increase within me. Strengthen me as I work to follow in your way, and following your example, may I wash the feet of my brothers and sisters.
Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)
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