15 March 2006: Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Lent
Matthew 20, 17-23: The mother of the sons of Zebedee
The Gospel tells us about what ambition is. In Matthew’s Gospel, the mother of the sons of Zebedee --- James and John --- approached Jesus requesting that her sons be distinguished: both of them would sit at the right and left of Jesus in His Kingdom. In Mark’s Gospel, it was James and John themselves who requested it. Whether it is James or John or their mother, the point remains that we often think about personal rewards and recognition. We are hurt when we are not recognized for what we have achieved: when we are not called by our titles or when we are not acknowledged for our positions.
However, the Gospel tells us that to “desire” to be with Jesus entails sharing His cross: the daily struggles of Christian life, the heartaches and the pains that follow discipleship. The request to be at Jesus’ side by either the disciples or their mother may annoy us, but they have indeed followed Jesus to the cross. William Barclay gives a detail that is interesting. In the list of those who were at the cross, we find these lists in different Gospels:
Matthew: a) Mary Magdalene, b) Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the c) mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew 27, 56).
Mark: a) Mary Magdalene, b) Mary the mother of James the Younger and Joses, and c) Salome (Mark 15, 40).
John: d) Jesus’ mother, c) his mother’s sister, b) Mary, the wife of Clopas, and a) Mary Magdalene.
Thus, at the foot of the cross, the mother of James and John (c) named Salome, followed Jesus to the cross. And we all know that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, became faithful disciples of Jesus. It is true that they, in their own capacity, shared in Jesus' cup. Perhaps, as we strive to become Jesus’ disciples, our ambitions or our wrong motivations are purified along the way.
Many choir members initially join the choirs for different reasons: to be popular, to be with someone they like, to belong to a group. Many of those who wanted to become priests have mixed motivations or begin with shallow attractions. I was first attracted by Jesuit food and music. But then, these motivations are checked and purified by the struggles and heartaches that are part and parcel of membership. When an organization faces challenges like poor attendance in practices or strained relationships affecting group activities, motivations are evaluated and deepened. Will the member remain loyal to the ideals of the organization? Or, will he/she withdraw once the going gets tough? God begins from where we are --- yes, impure motivations --- and leads us to devote our lives to a niche where we can serve Him well. Let us therefore examine our motivations in following Jesus.