Wednesday of the 8th week of the Year
1st Reading: 1 Peter 1:18-25
Gospel: Mark 10:32-45
Beware of seeking rank and prestige
Although Jesus encountered opposition from the disciples, he did not back down or change tack, but continued on his way to Jerusalem, where, he knew, the Son of Man will be handed over, to be mocked and spat him, flogged and finally killed. Little wonder that his followers were amazed and afraid, despite the fact that he also promised, “after three days he will rise again.”
By contrast with this exalted vision of hope and life, of martyrdom and self-giving for others, the action of Zebedee’s sons, James and John, seems petty and contemptible. How could they intrigue for privileged places in the kingdom, seeking to outrank their colleagues, when Jesus has announced the giving of his life for everyone? How could they want to lord it over others (as prelates? ) ust as the Gentiles do? He had taught a spirit of loving service, but still they were scheming and dreaming of profit and of gaining the inside track. And yet, we must be grateful to the candid pair, for drawing from Jesus the clearest and most radical statement of his life’s purpose, when he declared that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Can you drink the cup that I must drink?
Today Mark’s gospel reports one of several clashes between Jesus and his disciples, as they make their way to Jerusalem, the city where Jesus will be crucified. Jesus and his disciples are clearly on different wavelengths. The difference between them finds expression in the very different questions they ask of each other. The question the two disciples, James and John, ask Jesus focuses on glory, honour, status. The question that Jesus asks James and John focuses on the experience of rejection and suffering that he has to face into, “Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I must be baptized?” Jesus was referring to the cup of suffering and the baptism of fire. The question of James and John showed their interest in self-promotion. The question of Jesus showed his interest in self-giving. At the heart of being his disciple is self-giving love, becoming the servant of others, and this will often mean taking the way of the cross, as Jesus knew from his own experience. James and John, and all of us, are being called to follow the one who did not come to be served but to serve, whose purpose in life was not to promote himself but to empty himself for others. It is only in following this way that we will receive that share in Jesus’ glory that was the focus of James and John’s request.