March 20, 2019
Then 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.” (Matthew 20:17-28)
The following homily was originally delivered at a school Mass in 2017:
What comes to mind when you hear the word apostles?
We know the apostles all became saints, and that nearly all of them died for their faith. They were obviously special men, handpicked by Jesus to show others the way. They must have been very holy men, who always knew the right thing to do, and did it.
Some of that information is true. The apostles became saints and most died for their faith. They were handpicked by Jesus, but not because they were special. Quite the contrary – they were chosen because they were ordinary men.
Today’s Gospel gives us a glimpse into the ordinary lives of the apostles. Jesus had just shared with the apostles the powerful news of what was to come: “…and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death…”
It is after this revelation that James and John (through their mother) make the request to sit on either side of Jesus in heaven. With that request it became clear that the apostles still didn’t get it – they had a long way to go. Their thoughts turned to their status and the reward that could come from being an apostle.
This, of course, goes against the very teachings of Jesus. He emphasized selflessness and service to others. If you are worried about the pay-off, being an apostle is probably not for you.
The apostles were ordinary men. They were often focused on themselves and concerned with their own needs, rather than on God and the needs of others. We are ordinary people, too. Aren’t we guilty of the same thing?
That’s the bad news. We are ordinary people who stumble and fall on a regular basis.
However, there is good news: Jesus was intentional in choosing ordinary men. It allows us to aspire to sainthood. It gives us hope. If the apostles can become saints, maybe we can too.
Lent is a great time to work toward our goal of sainthood. I challenge you to use the remainder of the Lenten season to focus on two things: First, work on your relationship with God. Focus on Him through prayer. Make time for Him, not just at Mass, but every day – be deliberate in paying attention to God.
Second, look for ways to serve others. Serve in small ways or big ways – there are people all around us in need. We simply need to look around and open our hearts.
When we do this, when we focus on God and others, we don’t have time to be selfish.
Yes, we are ordinary people; but we are capable of extraordinary things.