Sunday of St Mary of Egypt
Today, on the Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt, we hear Jesus prophesying His Passion while on the road to Jerusalem with His Apostles. Saint Mark describes how James and John asked Him for places of honour in His Kingdom. In response, Jesus Christ made it clear to them that, while the gentiles see it as normal for leaders to lord it over others, this is not how it works in His Kingdom. Instead, “Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all.”
In this incident we see how the Gospel that Christ preaches turns the values of our world on their head. We do not follow Christ in order to become rich or powerful, but rather to become like Him. And He “came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” In Jesus Christ we see someone who poured Himself out for the salvation of the world.
It is easy for us to be critical of the rather obvious ambition of the Apostles who had not yet learnt what it meant to follow Christ. Yet we all have tendencies to self-interest that we may not even be aware of, and there are many subtle ways in which we can use religion to bolster our own egos, somehow expecting that our devotion should result in some form of recognition. As we journey through Lent we pray that God would purify our desires, teach us true humility and shape us ever-more according to the Image of His Son, who teaches us what true greatness means.
Before He humbled Himself, only the angels knew Him. After He humbled Himself, all human nature knew Him. You see how His humbling of Himself did not make Him have less but produced countless benefits, countless deeds of virtue, and made His glory shine forth with greater brightness. God wants nothing and has need of nothing. Yet when He humbled Himself, He produced such great good, increased His household, and extended His kingdom. Why then are you afraid that you will become less if you humble yourself?
Saint John Chrysostom
The Holy Gospel According to Saint Mark 10:32-45:
At that time, Jesus taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise.” And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant of James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”