Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Drinking the Cup - Wed of the 2nd Week of Lent

FIRST READING  (Jeremiah 18:18-20)
They said, "Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not heed any of his words."

"Give heed to me, O Lord, and hearken to my plea. Is evil a recompense for good? Yet they have dug a pit for my life. Remember how I stood before thee to speak good for them, to turn away thy wrath from them."

GOSPEL (Matthew 20:17-28)
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day."

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom."

But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" They said to him, "We are able."

He said to them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."

And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." 

1. Authority and sacrificial lov

(Word of Life Community) 

2. Can you drink the chalice?
Twice before, Jesus warned His disciples that His life was moving inexorably toward suffering and death. Now, as they walk along the road that leads up to Jerusalem, Jesus predicts His death for the third time. This prediction is somewhat more specific, for Jesus actually names the precise events that will occur: Mockery, flogging, and crucifixion. “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” Jesus asks James and John. If they want to sit next to Jesus at the Kingdom banquet, they must drink from the same chalice He drinks, the chalice of suffering. This image of a chalice filled with bitter wine of suffering is taken from the Old Testament (cf Is 51:17; Jer 25:15; Lam 4:21). James and John respond to Jesus’ question by vowing that they are, indeed, able to drink this chalice. In a sense, they are correct. James and John, as leaders in the early Christian community, will endure its persecutions and suffer for their faith; James will die a martyr’s death by Herod Agrippa’s sword (cf Acts 12:2). In another sense, though, they are not able. After only a meager taste of the caustic wine, James and John, as well as the others, throw down the chalice; in Jesus’ passion, “all the disciples left Him and fled” (Mt 26:56).

3. Can they REALLY drink that cup??
(Lutheran Church Augusta, MO)

I find today's gospel quite funny, it has the air of a black comedy about it, mainly due to the misunderstandings of the disciples. In today's Gospel Jesus is journeying to Jerusalem with his disciples. On the way he breaks the news of his impending death. He tells them that when they reach the city he, Jesus, will be handed over to the temple officials and the Romans to be killed. He also tells them that he will rise again on the third day.

How do the disciples react? Do they get upset? Do they try to get Jesus to turn away from Jerusalem? No, they do none of these things, but rather begin to argue over stupid things. The mother of Zebedee's sons approaches Jesus to try and get places of honour for them in the kingdom of Jesus, completely misunderstanding what he meant by kingdom. Jesus tries to inform her that to gain places of honour in his kingdom is to take up the cross and suffer as Jesus himself soon will, and that it is his Father who will give out places there.

You would think that this would have been the end of the discussion. But no, the other ten disciples obviously have the words "places of honour" stuck in their heads, and they begin to get annoyed, one suspects because they didn't get their request in first! Again Jesus tries to give a lesson on what a Christian leader ought to be like, one that follows his example, to serve those over whom they have authority. This is a reversal of what we think someone in a position of authority ought to be like. Yet that is what we are called to be.

So Jesus has told his disciples he is going to die horribly, they fight among themselves for positions of honour, then Jesus has to give them a lesson in Christian leadership! Their reaction to his news is not what one would expect. That is what sin, in the form of ambition in this case, does. It prevents us from hearing clearly the word of God, which means that we cannot follow it. But by being the type of people that Jesus instructs his disciples to be we will hear his word, and be able to follow it.

O gracious Father,
we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church;
that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth,
in all peace.
Where it is corrupt, purify it;
where it is in error, direct it;
where in any thing it is amiss, reform it.
Where it is right, establish it;
where it is in want, provide for it;
where it is divided, reunite it;
for the sake of him who died and rose again,
and ever liveth to make intercession for us,
Jesus Christ,
thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
Archbishop William Laud (1573-1645)


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