Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
(Jeremiah 18:18-20; Matthew 20:17-28)
As we approach the middle of Lent, we may find our initial Lenten resolutions losing their grip on us. It is a parallel process to the capitulations found in today’s readings. In the first, the people of Jerusalem are not willing to accept Jeremiah’s teaching that their allegiance must be to God alone. They want to dally with other gods as a way of hedging their bets on divine assistance. In the gospel no one seems to grasp what Jesus is saying about self-sacrifice for the good of the people. James and John allow their mother to promote their advancement. Meanwhile, the other disciples don't want to lose their chance of sitting on the places of honor.
The conversion that the Lord seeks of us and to which we consent on Ash Wednesday runs against the ways of the world. Where the world says “look out for number one,” Jesus tells us to “lose our lives for his sake and for the gospel.” We have to renew our efforts continually so that one day we will be able to serve others joyfully.
The saints model Jesus’ self-abnegation for good of others. Stanley Rother was an American priest defending the rights of the indigenous in Guatemala during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. He was threatened with death if he did not leave his parish. In fact, he tried going away but made the realization that, as he said, “a shepherd cannot run from his flock.” He returned to Guatemala where shortly afterwards gunmen entered his rectory and killed him. He has recently been declared “Blessed” by Pope Francis.