MARCH 16, 2011: WEDNESDAY OF 1ST WEEK OF LENT: JEREMIAH 18: 18-20 ; MATTHEW 20:17-28
MEMORABLE, UNEXPECTED, AND CHALLENGING WORDS frequently confront us in the pages of the Gospel when Jesus addresses his followers. Certainly his teaching in the passage we have just heard from Matthew’s Gospel is a palmary example of the unadorned, powerful utterances that our Lord spontaneously and even abruptly, it would seem, directed to his closest disciples. The relatively brief periscope we have just read from Saint Matthew's Gospel contains two such statements that remain as much of a challenge to us today as they were when first spoken to his inner circle. Once heard, both sayings readily come to mind again as somehow being expressive of the values our Lord represents in his person. The two statements I have in view are these: “The son of man has come to give his own life for the ransom of many.” The second saying is closely related but remains distinct from this one in that it extends the principle of self-giving to make it apply to daily life, not only to the extreme instance of dying for others. “Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest; whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all.”
Both of these statements require us to set aside every other concern and focus on their implications if we would take their message to heart. Rightly to grasp the message that our Lord sets before us when he speaks of giving his life for the ransom of many requires that we examine our own fundamental attitude toward our own life. In telling us the purpose of his having come among us our Lord reveals to us that we are held in a captivity that we cannot escape from by our own resources. We do not possess the means of providing the ransom demanded for our liberation. He alone can assure our freedom and he here makes it clear that he intends to pay the full price of our release at the cost of his own life. The presuppositions of his announcement then tell us a great deal about our own needy, even helpless condition, on the one hand, and, on the other, gives us a glimpse into the astonishing love of his heart that leads him to accept death so that we might be ransomed and have access to his Father. To realize what our Lord's words here convey to us fills our heart with gratitude and deep, loving appreciation for his selfless willingness to die that we might live happily.
Our Lord's second saying indicates the way by which we can show our gratitude and in some measure respond in kind to his self offering. For it tell us that to serve others, not to seek to dominate or use them selfishly, is the way to gain God's favor, and so to make his sacrifice for us bear the most desirable fruit of all, that of gaining intimacy with the Father. For it is friendship with God that our Lord has in mind when he tells us here that to serve is to attain to the highest honor. By this Eucharistic sacrifice we give expression to our gratitude to God through his Son who gave his life that we might be come in all truth children of the God who is our Father. &
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