Mumbai Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) | Daily scripture reflection 3rd February 2021

Daily scripture reflection 3rd February 2021

3rd March, 2021
Initiative of the Ministry of the Word group Jer.18:18-20; Ps.31; Mt.20:17-28
3rd March 2021, Wednesday
Second Week in Lent
Jer.18:18-20; Ps.31; Mt.20:17-28

The readings today focus on service.  The First Reading is from Jeremiah.  Jeremiah lived through a historical period - an era of transition, when the powerful Assyrian empire that dominated for nearly two centuries, declined and fell to the Neo-Babylonian Empire.  

Hailing from a priestly family in Ananoth in Judah, Jeremiah began his prophetic career around 627-626 BCE in the 13th year of King Josiah’s reign.  He responded to Yahweh’s call to prophesy, but his prophecies of condemnation against the reigning idolatry and social injustice made him highly unpopular and he was taunted as a “Prophet of Doom”.

Today’s reading speaks of the persecution that the Prophet faces.  There are plots against him, as people find his preaching and prophecies irksome; he is nothing more than a trouble maker they say.  Their words leave Jeremiah puzzled, “Should evil be returned for good?” he asks.  His pleading with God is on the people’s behalf, yet this is the reward he gets.  The persecution of Jeremiah prefigures the persecutions of Jesus.

In the Gospel Jesus once again predicts his passion, death & resurrection.    It is the third and most detailed of the passion predictions. For the first time mention is made of the gentiles.  The text follows Mark very closely, except that Mark says Jesus will be killed, while Matthew explicitly says “crucified”.

The reaction of the disciples is not recorded here but on the earlier two occasions, they were both shocked and saddened.  For the Jews, the Messiah was expected to usher in the “Golden Age” of King David, referred to as “the Kingdom of God”.   How could the long-awaited Messiah of Israel be treated as such?  They find it hard to understand or even believe, but they still have a lot to learn.  

Then the mother of James & John approaches Jesus with a typical mother’s request. Since Jesus was the Messiah, the mother wishes that in his Kingdom, her sons be given places of honor on his right and left – places that were reserved to the most important officials and those closest to the King.

In Mark’s gospel, it is the boys themselves who ask the favor.  Why Matthew makes the mother ask is not clear.  There could be an allusion here to Bathsheba, wife of King David, seeking the kingdom for her son Solomon.  Or, it could be that Matthew is more deferential to the disciples than Mark who regularly shows up their failure to understand Jesus’ teachings.

Jesus’ response is clearly directed to the two disciples: “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Mark uses “baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized” cf. Mk.10:38).  “We can,” they say with confidence.  Even so, says Jesus, the places at his right & left are not privileges to be given out by him on a first come first serve basis.  On hearing this the other ten disciples are angry & indignant about the backdoor tactics of James & John.  Obviously, their thinking is no different.  And so Jesus teaches them about real greatness.

In the secular world, leaders through domination and manipulation seek power to control people for their own ends.  In Jesus’ world, however, to be great is to put one’s self totally at the service of others, to empower them and not to have power over them. “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (“many” being a Semitic expression for “all”) (“ransom” the term refers to God liberating the Israelites from Egypt, as well as from the exile in Babylon).  Jesus will exemplify this on the Cross.

Today’s readings exhort us to have a look at our own ministries – do we serve so that we are served, or do we serve for the greater glory of God.