Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

If, as we have considered earlier this week, Jesus Christ is Lord and is thus sovereignly free to act in the world as he wishes, then the way that God reveals himself in Jesus Christ is of great importance. At Christmas, for example, we can recognize that our God is not one who would make things “easier” for himself, but one who chooses to be born as the little child of migrants denied all but the most rudimentary shelter. God could have chosen to be born in a rich, noble household—one that we might consider more befitting of God’s dignity—but he chose instead to be “of mean estate,” because to him, that is more fitting (cf. Philippians 2:7). In the nativity, Ignatius of Loyola observes, God seems to be providently working all things towards this good: that his family will, in fact, undergo hardships “in order that our Lord might be born in extreme poverty, and after so many labors of hunger and thirst, heat and cold, insults and injuries, He is to die on the cross, and all this for me” (SpEx 116). This is what God is like.
Ignatius links the nativity to the cross, and it is this cross that Jesus indicates in today’s gospel. It would be helpful to bear in mind Jesus’ question “who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:15, in Monday’s gospel). There is no doubt that the sons of Zebedee love Jesus dearly, and Jesus clearly loves them also in a privileged way, choosing them together with Peter to be witnesses to the Transfiguration and to pray with him in the garden on the night of the Passion. In this gospel, we encounter the love of two young and eager disciples who are willing to make an offering “of greater worth and moment” (SpEx 97), for they eagerly agree to drink the chalice (of suffering) that Jesus is going to drink. And yet, for all this, neither the sons of Zebedee, nor the other disciples who become indignant with them, seem to have a good sense of who Jesus is. Nonetheless, Jesus does not push them away for having misunderstood who he is, but rather welcomes them into the most profound intimacy with him: “my chalice you will indeed drink.” It is precisely because Jesus desires to bind them ever closer to himself and to help them to live the divine life that he offers that he reveals to them, yet again, that the divine life is not what they think it to be. The divine life that Jesus offers his disciples is his own life: “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Why do we chase after any other “life” besides the divine life that Jesus offers us? For what Jesus shows us, truly, is what God is like.
February 24th, 2016