Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Enough about you. How about me?

Second Week of Lent 2007: Wednesday
Mass Readings
Jeremiah 18:18-20
Matthew 20:17-28

Jesus is continuing his journey to Jerusalem and he is preparing his disciples for his imminent torture and crucifixion. Jesus is undoubtedly tormented and frightened. We don't often think about Jesus' emotions since that requires us to pay close attention to his humanity. We often have images of the stoic Jesus who is seemingly unmoved unless of course we want to think of Jesus expressing love. But what about fear? Jesus is facing what he knows will be unrelenting horror so naturally he would have to be frightened and stressed beyond imagination. Yet in the midst of this, he ministers to his disciples and wants to prepare them for the worst. He thinks of the disciples before himself.

Jesus instructs the disciples of what is to come. Jesus lays out for them the torture he is to face. What are the disciples thinking? What are the disciples feeling? Well, for two of them, its "Enough about you. How about me"? Jesus has opened up and shared the facts of his impending death for a third time but for James and John, the sons of Zeb'edee, its time to talk about their promotion! With friends like this, well, you know the saying. But James and John think they have an ace up their sleeve, their mom. Send mom to do the asking and surely Jesus can't say no! I can't help but hear this scene in my head; "OK Jesus, really sorry for the pain you are going to go through and, well, we appreciate you saving us. Since were talking, would you give my kids a promotion? I know you have a lot on your mind but could you do me this favor"?

The hurt Jesus must have felt is unimaginable. Instead of reacting harshly, Jesus uses the moment to teach a very important lesson. Jesus proposes a new way of living to the disciples. To be his disciples, they must first seek the good of others before their own advancement. To drink from the chalice is to be willing to live for the good of others and not merely the advancement of self. You can almost imagine James and John and especially their mom feeling a bit deflated to say the least.

Being a disciple of Jesus is not about power, money, or prestige. To be a disciple is to seek the emptying of self so that we can be filled with Jesus' word and love. We in turn reach out to others so that they may grow closer to Jesus. To be a disciple is to seek the way of humility, patience, understanding, and most importantly, love. To profess that we are Christians means that we are to draw focus away from us and direct it to Jesus. Nothing is more important than Jesus.

Unfortunately, self gets in the way more often than not. I know it happens to me and I get wrapped up in what I want and I what I think needs to be done and I forget what Jesus wants me to do. It happens to us all. The good news is that we can always change that. When we recognize that self advancement is becoming more important than the advancement of God's Kingdom, we can pause and ask for help to decrease so that Jesus may increase. We Christians are not to crave power and wealth so that we can lord it over others. The pursuit of earthly pleasure is not the primary reason why we were created. We were created so that God could love us and we in turn love God and one another. Our existence is about relationship. To live is to be in communion with God and one another.

Perhaps during this Lenten season we can try to practice a new way and say; Enough about me. How about you"?