‘Come on,’ they said, ‘let us concoct a plot against Jeremiah; the priest will not run short of instruction without him, nor the sage of advice, nor the prophet of the word. Come on, let us hit at him with his own tongue; let us listen carefully to every word he says.’
Listen to me, O Lord,
hear what my adversaries are saying.
Should evil be returned for good?
For they are digging a pit for me.
Remember how I stood in your presence
to plead on their behalf,
to turn your wrath away from them.
Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, and on the way he took the Twelve to one side and said to them, ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day he will rise again.’
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus answered. ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ ‘Very well,’ he said ‘you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’
When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant
Comparison is an easy exercise to slip into the moment I start to feel dissatisfied with my lot in life. I am compare what I now have with the best case scenario in my mind, or how it appears others may not struggle as much as I do. In these past couple of years, my family has encountered two life-threatening illnesses and moved homes and countries more than three times. I have also gone through a real stripping of my own identity as to whether I am to become a stay home mother or a working mother, or somewhere in between – and I battle with the accompanying rollercoaster understanding of my self-worth with each choice.
The Gospel readings of Matthew today reveal to me the great illusion we can often make out of the choices we have in life – the illusion that we have control over our lives are when we are able to choose the things we like or dislike. But is our control over these things really all that it is cut out to be? What happens when things just ‘happen to us’? Like in the case of a tragedy in the family or loss of job.
I have often ‘bargained’ with God for the things I would rather happen. But in this reading, I hear His answer to me: ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?… you shall drink my cup, but as for the seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father’ (Matt 20:22-23). How easy it is to hypothetically cherry-pick our successes and tribulations.
In other words, I only have a very finite and incomplete understanding of the will of God when I try to dictate my ‘foresight scenarios’ to Him. I see it from my human point of view, which is very tiny and flawed, especially in accepting my portion with humility. Certainly, like the mother of Zebedee’s sons, I would rather choose the better portions for my loved ones – that they would not have to suffer grave illnesses and I would rather not suffer the challenges I face. The portion of the underdog constantly fighting fires is a very exhausting place to be. Like the other ten disciples, I have found myself asking God if my ‘hour of triumph’ over my setbacks will ever come and when?
Jesus replied to them: ‘Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant… just as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ (Matt 20:26)
If you are also struggling with your flaws, accepting and rolling with your hardships, and believing in the larger meaning of what you are going through, know that you are absolutely not alone. You have a fellow companion in me. We are not alone. I know that I have still much to grow in my faith in God. Let us trust that our suffering and trials are of service to God in this far bigger tapestry of God’s plan for our life. Not just in our limited lifetime, but in the legacies of our family, our children and children’s children. What matters more, is how we have chosen to stay the course of our faith and how we live in contentment and humility.
Christ came to serve God through each very present moment of serving his fellow man – the disciples who followed him and the multitude who sought healing for him. I desire to grow in understanding of my self-worth within God’s plan. A self-worth which is not tied to the elevation of my career status, praise for my works, or even how ‘put-together’ a person or woman I am, in the eyes of this world.
Instead, I am enough. It is enough that I am alive. It is enough that I am loved by my family. It is enough that I can serve the very domestic needs of my family. It is enough that I am here today, wherever that I am. It is enough that I am trying to grow each day. It is enough to be a child of God and infinitely loved.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: May we pray daily for the grace of contentment for our portion in life.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Heavenly Father for making me, me.