Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
(Jeremiah 18:18-20; Matthew 20:17-28)
“The Repentant Magdalene” is a painting by the French master Georges de La Tour. It shows a young woman in flirtatious clothing. She sits at a table with a mirror, a lighted candle, and a skull. She is obviously pondering which way she will proceed in life. Will she continue drawing attention to herself so that might enjoy worldly pleasures? Or will she follow the light of the world who calls her to self-denial? This contrast resounds in the readings today.
Jeremiah is constantly plagued with rejection. Not only is his call to reform spurned, but his life is threatened. Yet he maintains an intimate relation with God whose message he speaks. In the gospel the contrast is starker. Jesus shares with his disciples the destiny that awaits him in Jerusalem. He will be handed over, condemned, mocked, scourged, and crucified before rising from the dead. Immediately afterwards the mother of James and John approaches Jesus with the request that her sons be given places of honor in his kingdom. She evidently has not heard what Jesus has said about suffering.
During Lent we cannot miss Jesus’ call to take up our crosses behind him. Yet the pleasures of the world continue to attract our attention. They are not bad in themselves but often can be misleading. We must choose which way we are to follow.