The parable told in today’s Gospel is a powerful one; it leaves little to the imagination. To us, it is clear Jesus is speaking of God sending His only Son, Jesus, to God’s Chosen People. It was equally clear to the chief priests and Pharisees when Jesus told the parable what He was talking about. It would have been a rough day to be a Pharisee. Christ says plainly, “the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
The Kingdom was in fact taken away from them and given to… whom? Given to every person who proclaims Jesus Christ his personal Lord and Savior? No; Scripture does not tell us that. Given to those who say, “Lord, Lord! Did I not prophesy in your name?” No; Matthew makes clear that is not enough. Given to those who want to make a difference in the world?” No. Because wanting is not the same as doing.
Jesus says that “the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” So, if we want to be a part of the Kingdom of God, we had all better be doing something to produce its fruit. That doesn’t mean that each of us has to personally end poverty or take it upon ourselves to reform the Curia. It does mean that we are obligated to use whatever talents and resources God gives us to make the world around us a little bit or a lot better than how we found it.
The Lord knows that we are imperfect. He knows that better than we do, and so He tells us, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.” We all have something to offer God’s Kingdom. We might not even know what that something is, or we might see it as so unworthy that we don’t even see the use to which God can put it. But God can take that which the world rejects and make it the cornerstone in His kingdom. And so we have an obligation to work to produce the fruits of the Kingdom if we want to have a place in the Kingdom.
Let us all pray for the grace to recognize that God is active in our lives and that He is leading us forward to produce the fruits of His Kingdom. We need only have the courage to follow.
I wonder what the conversation was in the run-up to momma asking Jesus to make her sons the most important in His kingdom. Do you suppose James and John tried to talk her out of it? “Mom. The other apostles will laugh at us. You already make us wear these goofy sweaters.” People really haven’t changed all that much… moms especially. They want what’s best for their children.
But do we always know what is best for our children? Do we always know what is best for ourselves? No. Not always. Sure – we generally have a pretty good idea of what is good, but we don’t know with certainty what is best. And sometimes what we think is best is not it at all. James would die a martyr’s death and give his life in witness for Christ like all of the other apostles except his brother; John would spend his life caring for our Blessed Mother and teaching those in his early Church community to follow in the ways of Christ. His teachings remain with us today.
Those are probably not the outcomes their mother Salome was looking for when she asked our Lord to let one sit at His right and one at His left. She probably had in mind something a little more temporal. A little more powerful by a human measure: lordship, wealth, and influence. She probably saw those things as good, and so wanted them for her sons. Who can blame her?
But Christ didn’t see them as good. He wanted to give James and John the best, and so He did: one He gave the martyr’s crown and the other He called the Beloved Disciple. He didn’t give them passing influence in the world; He gave them a place in His Kingdom, and so their influence will last until the end of the world. He didn’t make them men to be served; rather, He made them servants of all.
Let us never fail to pray that Our Lord will help us to become servants of all because it is through this service that we become a part of the Kingdom of God. Let us trust in the Lord to know what is best for us and to give it to us, even when we don’t know what is best or when we fail to recognize it when it is given. Most of all, let us pray that we are given the grace to desire the things of God and not the things of men.
Dear Parish Family:
While [Jesus] was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.He himself understood it well.
If you want religion to make you feel good about yourself and your place in the world, the Catholic faith probably isn’t for you. There are plenty of self-referential, new agey, health-and-wealth Gospel movements out there if you’re wanting delusion and an overall feeling that you’re right… no matter what. On the other hand, if you want the fullness of the truth, then the Catholic faith is precisely for you. If you are willing, ready, and able to take an honest look at yourself and to recognize your faults and failings for what they are, then you are ready to grow in faith and wisdom before God and men.
The people of Jerusalem saw the signs that Christ was doing and for that they began to believe in Him. These are the same people who would soon shout, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” This is why Jesus didn’t trust Himself to them; He understands our nature.
For a little more than a year now, Father Angelo has made the purple “Get Over Yourself” bracelets available to parishioners and visitors to Our Lady of Lourdes. For all of us, the beginning of getting over ourselves is realizing that we share the same human nature that needed no testimony before Christ. We believe easily when times are good and we see powerful signs all around us. Faith becomes harder when the good times end and we see before us Christ crucified. It is in getting over ourselves that our eyes can be opened to what is beyond the Crucifixion: specifically, the Resurrection and the triumph of our Lord and Savior. It is in Christ’s victory that our hope of victory can be found, not through our fallible human nature but through the divine nature that comes to us through Christ.
As we continue our Lenten journey, let us pray for the humility and the wisdom to truly get over ourselves and to grow in faith and wisdom before God and men, for this is the end to which God calls us and it is only in this way that we can become true citizens of the Kingdom of God.