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The request of James and John

Gospel Reading: Mt 20:17-28
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves…

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached him with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking.

Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The Gospel is the third prediction of Jesus’ death and resurrection. After Jesus tells the Twelve about his forthcoming passion, death, and resurrection, the mother of Zebedee’s sons approaches Jesus and asks him for seats of honor for her two sons in his Kingdom. Jesus honestly admits that it is only the Father who has authority to do so.

To drink the chalice of Jesus means to share in his passion. They must be willing to share Jesus’ sufferings so that they can have seats of honor.

Jesus is talking about his coming passion, yet the mother is thinking only of her sons getting seats of honor. So Jesus gives her and the Twelve a lesson on humility. Those who wish to be great should serve; those who wish to be first should be slaves of all.

The Gospel continues the theme of service as a sign of true greatness.

“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped” (Phil 2:5-6).

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