All Day (Wednesday)
Meditations for Lent By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press Week 2: Wednesday Not to Be Served The hour of Jesus approaches. He goes up to Jerusalem voluntarily, knowing that he will die there,
Meditations for Lent
By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press
Week 2: Wednesday
Not to Be Served
The hour of Jesus approaches. He goes up to Jerusalem voluntarily, knowing that he will die there, and he says so to his Apostles.
“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him . . . 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’ ” (Matt. 20:20-21). In recounting the same episode, St. Mark says plainly that it was not only their mother, but the two brothers themselves, that is, Sts. James and John, who made the request (Mark 10:35-37). This shows us that their mother was acting at the instigation of her sons, who seem to have joined openly in the demand. And this is why the Savior addressed his response to them: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (Matt. 20:22).
This exchange shows us how hard it was for the apostles to hear about the Cross. Jesus has just spoken of it clearly (Matt. 20:19), and far from hearing it, Sts. James and John — leaders among the Apostles — have just spoken to him of his glory and of the distinction that they hope to gain from him.
Let us weigh these words of Jesus: “You do not know what you are asking” (Matt. 20:22). You speak of glory, and you are not thinking about what must be suffered in order to gain it. Then he explains these sufferings to them by two metaphors, by that of the bitter cup that must be drunk and by the bloody baptism that must be accepted. To swallow every sort of bitterness, to be suffering to the point of having one’s body submerged, as in baptism: this is the price of glory.
The ambitious apostles offer themselves for all of it, but Jesus, who can see that they are only offering to suffer from ambition, does not choose to satisfy them. He grants their request so far as the Cross is concerned, but as to glory, he refers them to the eternal decrees and hidden wisdom of his Father. He might have said to them what he subsequently said to all the Apostles: “As my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint one for you” (cf. Luke 22:29). But those who are willing to suffer only for ambition were not yet worthy to hear this promise. So, to attach them to the Cross, the power of which they did not yet comprehend, Jesus leaves to the Father what pertains to glory and here allows himself only to predict and distribute afflictions.
All of this was accomplished with the profound economy so often practiced in the Gospel, where, for various reasons, different things are attributed to the Father and to the Son. Yet we must always remember that what lies beneath as foundation is what the Savior said to his Father: “All mine are Thine, and Thine are mine” (cf. John 17:10).
The other apostles “were indignant” at the two brothers’ request (Matt. 20:24). Blind, they did not realize that they were all possessed by the same sentiments they condemned in the two, inasmuch as both earlier and later Jesus surprised them in a dispute as to “which of them was the greatest” (Luke 9:46; 22:24). So it is that we cannot endure in others the vice that we have in ourselves: we are sufficiently keen sighted to levy reproof, but too blind for self-knowledge and self-correction.
We should take note of the admirable change that the Savior’s instructions and the effusion of the Holy Spirit effected in the Apostles. These men who never stopped arguing among themselves about who was the greatest, effortlessly ceded the honor to St. Peter. They let him speak everywhere. He presided at all their councils and assemblies. St. John, who had just asked for the first place, waits for St. Peter at the Savior’s tomb so that he can go in first, and his haste to see the signs of the Resurrection of his Master did not prevent him from paying the honor that he owed to the prince of the Apostles.
Let us consider well the words of St. Matthew by which Jesus casts down all ambition by his example:
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. (Matt. 20:25-28)
Do not be ambitious, O Christian! Do not desire to command or to have any advantage among men, for you are the disciple of the One who, although Lord of all, made himself a servant and placed all of his glory in the redemption of his elect by the loss of his life. Redeemed by the humility and the Cross of your Savior, do not dream of elevating yourself, nor puffing up your heart in any way.
Let us also consider how much our passions blind us, especially ambition, and let us cry out, like the two blind men and like Bartimaeus: “Lord, let our eyes be opened” (Matt. 20:33; Mark 10:46, 51; Luke 18:41). Help us to know our faults. The reproach of men must never prevent us from crying out to Jesus to implore the help of his grace. Let us leave behind our habits, run to him, open our eyes, glorify God, and let us never glory in ourselves.