What strikes me in today’s Gospel is that while Jesus discloses some shocking and horrific news to his disciples, telling them that he will be condemned to death and will be crucified, the mother of James and John responds by wanting her sons to be at a place of honor. I would have thought that she would have just hugged Jesus and showed some love and tenderness and compassion for what he had just disclosed. Yet, I think about the mother of James and John, Mary of Salome. In the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, there are statues of Zebedee and Mary of Salome right by the main altar. I am always drawn to these statues, seeing how they are standing vigil at the altar dedicated to their son, James, who was sent to bring the Gospel message to the people of Spain. James and John were called the Sons of Thunder by Jesus – we can imagine that their very fiery and combative personalities earned them such a title. I can imagine that Mary of Salome is concerned for the welfare of her sons, asking Jesus to give them a place of honor in his kingdom. We have to give her credit, that even knowing that Jesus will die a terrible death, she still has confidence that Jesus will reign in his Father’s kingdom.
Yet, Jesus tells them the message that he proclaims in other ways the Gospel – that we need to be a servant, that we need to die in order to live, that the first will be last and the last will be first, that whoever loses his life will save it. It is a message that is so counter-intuitive to the ways of the world. I found this quote several weeks ago from Thomas a Kempis, the medieval German author of Imitation of Christ: “Nothing, how little so ever it be, if it is suffered for God's sake, can pass without merit in the sight of God." Remember the Latin word that is printed on our rubber wristbands this Lent – Sacrificium – Sacrifice. We are called to make sacrifices for our faith, rather than to seek the place of honor. May the Lord lead us to humbly continue our journey this holy season of Lent.