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The request of James and John

Gospel Reading: Mt 20:20-28

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus 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.”


Matthew “softens” the image of James and John by making their mother do the pleading with Jesus that her sons be seated one at his right and the other at his left in the Kingdom. In Mark, James and John make the request themselves. Jesus responds to the brothers that even if they are able to share the cup of suffering that he will drink, it is not for Jesus to decide who sits at his right and his left in his glory.

At this, the other ten Apostles react strongly against the brothers. Jesus, then, takes the opportunity to teach them that while the Gentiles lord it over their subjects, with them, it should not be so. Anyone who wishes to be first among them must put himself last, and anyone who wants to be great must serve the rest. For this is how it is with the Son of Man, their master.

We naturally desire to be exalted, honored, and looked up to. And sometimes we do everything to achieve this status, even through evil means. But the values of the Kingdom are different: greatness lies in humility, in being servants. This may be difficult to comprehend, but this is God’s way, as Jesus has shown. Let us learn from him the way of humility and servanthood, of thinking of others before ourselves, of putting ourselves last—for, in this way, God will exalt us.

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2017” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.