First Reading: Jeremiah 18:18-20
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 30(31):5-6,14-16
Gospel Reading: Matthew 20:17-28

Biblically speaking, service is linked to a mission from God. Thus, we see in Jesus that he “did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). He washed the feet of the apostles and made his Father’s plan his own, even to the death of the cross. Little wonder Pope Saint John Paul II tells us: “How can we not read in the life of the ‘servant Jesus’ the story of every vocation, that story thought by the Creator for every human being, a story that inevitably passes through the call to serve (…)?” Saint Josemaría is known to have said: “To serve is something delicious. I have been proud in my life to have been a servant to everyone. I want to serve God and, for the love of God, to serve with love all the creatures of the earth.” Understanding this reality makes us sensitive to the needs of others, especially those in dire need. This call resounds particularly strongly in this holy time of preparation for Easter – Lenten season. Thus, the Church continues to resound the necessity of service rooted in humility as reflected in today’s readings.

First, the gospel presents us with the encounter between Jesus and the mother of the sons of Zebedee on his way to Jerusalem with his Apostles. This encounter led to his teaching on humility and service. It is not surprising that the mother of James and John approached Jesus to ask for a place of honour for them; after all, every mother wants the best for her children. Her request was straightforward: “Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.” Apparently, this request was practically the opposite of what Christ had taught the apostles from the beginning – he had made it clear that he would realize his messianic mission through suffering, death, and resurrection on several occasions, and even after immediately reminding them of his mission through the cross and resurrection, such a request was made. So, after listening to the mother of James and John, Jesus tells James and John: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink of the chalice that I am about to drink?” They replied, ‘We can’. Then Jesus said to them: “Indeed, you will drink from my chalice.” Now, the image of the chalice evokes pain and death. This was the service Christ had come to render for mankind in his humility and obedience to the Father’s will. We are told that the request of the Mother of James and John made the other ten apostles indignant with the two brothers; perhaps, deep in their hearts, they wanted the same thing. Christ then takes advantage of this situation, as on other occasions, to form the hearts of the apostles. Who is the greatest? The Lord’s answer is simple and, at the same time, demanding: “Whoever wants to become great must become your servant; whoever wants to be first, let him be your servant.” Jesus Christ corrects their excessively human ambitions with divine patience, surpassing their scale of values: the first becomes the last and the last becomes first. This conversation took place as they went up to Jerusalem. Jesus knew what will happen in the Holy City in a few days. He had just announced it to his apostles a little earlier.

Dear friends in Christ, service is the hallmark of anyone who intends to walk alongside the Lord. While exercising this service, we would be faced with persecution from the arrogant and proud of the world, just as Prophet Jeremiah experienced in the First Reading, whose enemies in their pride plotted against him. Jeremiah’s faith did not waver, rather, he prayed to God in humility. The essence of his prayer is reiterated in today’s Responsorial psalm.

Above all, while the great of the earth build ‘thrones’ for their own power, God chooses an uncomfortable throne, the cross, from which to reign and give life to humanity. Experiencing this reality through service leads us to embody the lifestyle of Jesus. It is not something humiliating, it is the highest attitude we can have in life: service is an art exercised by those who have discovered that they are recipients of the love of the crucified Christ and have seen their hearts grow in his heart. By participating in the Eucharistic celebration, we eat his body and drink from his chalice; as such, we renew the path that leads us to the heights of God’s love and service to people. The Blessed Virgin Mary walked the path to the cross with her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ and, during this Lent, she accompanies us like a good mother who wants to achieve the best for her children by pointing first the way of the cross to us (in contrast to the Mother of James and John) in order that we might consequently have our glorified places with Christ in his kingdom. We are called today to a radical conversion in order to understand the ways of the Lord. Lent renews this opportunity: it invites us to transform our way of understanding Jesus’ humility and service to God and humanity.

© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, Vila Medeiros, São Paulo, Brazil /
PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?


Subscribe to latest posts via email.

Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith. More about him here.

View all posts
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lawrence Okonofua
Lawrence Okonofua
1 year ago

Lord, that we may learn to serve You in our neighbours.

Ngosoo Perpetua Chia
Ngosoo Perpetua Chia
1 year ago


Emeka Odugu
Emeka Odugu
1 year ago

If the position of the mother of James and John is to be likened to the Nigerian situation, I will say that she, like Mahmood Yakubu, rigged an election in favour of her children. And those that rig elections do not actually understand the duties and responsibilities of the offices they wish to occupy. That is why Jesus told them; “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink of the chalice that I am about to drink?” Like Nigerian politicians their answer was in the affirmative, thinking that once their request was granted they would become the… Read more »

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x