Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday of the Second Week in Lent

(Jeremiah 18:18-20; Matthew 20:17-28)

The desolation that Jeremiah feels after overhearing his countrymen plot his demise points to Jesus’ discouragement in the gospel. The latter knows that he must go to Jerusalem where he will be apprehended, abused, and executed. The fact that his disciples don’t understand the direness of his situation but concern themselves with questions of status must disappoint him deeply.

Jesus, however, does not wallow in self-pity. Rather he uses the disciples’ obtuseness to deliver a lesson on status. He tells them that they will be true followers to the extent that they consider status as an opportunity to serve others. He is laying the foundation for what many understand as noblesse oblige. This concept asserts that nobility have an obligation to use their wealth and authority for the benefit of the poor and needy.

Today Americans celebrate one who eminently lived out Jesus’ lesson on status. St. Katherine Drexel came from a banking family which endowed her with a considerable fortune. She used her money to establish a religious congregation dedicated to the care of native and African-Americans. She also gave herself completely to the effort by visiting missions in remote places across the United States over more than three decades. Today she is considered a patron of social justice for her uncompromising dedication to minorities.