Fr. Mike’s homily for Wednesday of the 8th Week in Ordinary Time Cycle I
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Wednesday May 26 2021
They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish [me] to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
“They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem.” This is not only about direction or destination. Rather, it indicates the culmination of the mission of Jesus. He is clear about this when He talked to His disciples privately: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles.”
This is the third and final prediction of Jesus regarding His passion, death and resurrection. Amazement and fear gripped the hearts of the disciples. But apparently, they are not taking His words so seriously, partly because they have not yet fully grasped the meaning of His words, and also partly because they are more concerned about other things, position and power among them.
This is illustrated in the case of the two disciples, the sons of Zebedee. They are preoccupied with their ambition for power. They boldly approach Jesus with their special request: “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Definitely, this is a presumptuous move on their part, but apparently they have to do this to preempt a similar move by the other disciples who were equally ambitious. Naturally, on learning about this, the other ten are indignant at the two brothers.
Obviously, Jesus and His disciples are not on the same page. While Jesus is talking about total self-immolation, they are thinking about selfish ambitions. While Jesus inculcates the value of self-giving, they are just interested in getting something for themselves. While Jesus talks about serving others, they want to be served and honored. Their idea about kingship and greatness differs diametrically from that of Jesus.
Surprisingly, Jesus is not annoyed nor does He reprimand His disciples. Instead, He takes this as an opportunity to teach them two important lessons on the right understanding of authority and true greatness. First, it is humility that makes a man truly great in the eyes of other people. Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” As the famous author, Ralph Waldo Emerson, said, “A great man is always willing to be little.”
Secondly, humility, far from disparaging oneself, is basically directed towards service. Jesus is clear about this: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.” This cannot be possible for people who are proud and full of themselves. Hence, Jesus continually urges His followers to deny themselves. The famous Catholic author, C.S. Lewis, rightly points out that “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
In the Gospel today, Jesus is actually enunciating the right principle in politics, properly understood and practiced. Not too long ago, politicians do not amass wealth. Rather, they spend their wealth to help the people. That is why, after one term, they rarely seek a second term, simply because their resources are already depleted. Consequently, no one else in the family wants to run for any political office. These were the times of true patriots and statesmen, when politics was still mainly for public service.
Sadly, the opposite is what happens now. Politics has become a family business, the easy way to gain enormous wealth by the use and abuse of power. So, graft and corruption abound and nepotism has become the rule. This is what the Lord accurately points out in the Gospel: “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.”
As His followers, the Lord sternly warns us: “It shall not be so among you.” If we want to be truly great in the eyes of God an men, we must always endeavor to grow in humility, in order to be of true service to one another. St. Bernard of Clairvaux said, “The three most important virtues are: humility, humility and humility.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches