Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages telling us about the challenges, difficulties and all the obstacles that we will face as those who follow the way of the Lord, as the reality that we must understand and face, if we are to continue to be faithful to Him. This we have heard from the prophet Jeremiah in our first reading, as well as the Lord Jesus Himself Who made it plain and clear to His disciples of the sufferings He Himself was to face.
The prophet Jeremiah lived during the last days of the kingdom of Judah, at the time when the once glorious kingdom of God’s people have fallen into a sad state, as it fell into bad times and was humiliated by its neighbours, and at that time, it was under danger of falling into the hands of the Babylonians, who would eventually destroy both the kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem and its Temple in the year 586 BC.
In those days, the prophet Jeremiah spoke of the impending doom that would come upon the kingdom and the people of Judah. And his words would come true when the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar came to conquer Jerusalem and brought its people to exile in the land of Babylon for many years. But false prophets and the refusal of the people to believe in what the Lord said through Jeremiah, combined with their continued insistence to live in sin, brought about their ultimate downfall.
The prophet Jeremiah did not have it easy, as he had to endure ridicule, persecution, rejection, and imprisonment. He was harassed at many opportunities, by those who refused to believe in him and in the message which he received from God. The prophet Jeremiah had to endure scorn and mockery, the opposition and to endure the anger of his own countrymen, because they steadfastly and stubbornly hardened their hearts against God and His call.
In the Gospel passage today we also heard about what the Lord Jesus Himself told His disciples when two of them came up to Him trying to curry favour with Him, with their mother in tow, asking for them to be given the special privileges of being able to sit at the left and the right hand side of the Lord, essentially being given importance greater than that of the other Apostles and disciples.
At that time, the custom was such that in a banquet, whoever sat beside the master of the banquet will be considered the greatest of importance amongst the guests and thus, garner the greatest prestige and honour. In fact, in order for someone to be able to sit at the places of honour, they would often jostle and compete with one another, seeking to outdo each other for the prestige and honour. And that was exactly what the disciples had done.
The other disciples were not happy against the two brothers because of their attempt to get ahead of them in supposed prestige and honour among the disciples. But the Lord rebuked them all and said that the way of a Christian, of those who believe in God, is that of humility, obedience and service. This comes contrary to the ways of the world, which prioritises individuality, selfishness and ambition, as shown by the attitudes of the Apostles towards each other.
In this world, all of us are surely accustomed at how the world values power, glory, wealth and all the things that we have been taught since our youth as those that bring about more pleasure, more happiness, more joy and more satisfaction for ourselves. And when we do not get what we want, we try our best to gain more of what we desire, sometimes even at the cost of others, when we acted like those two brothers, St. James and St. John, seeking for their own personal gain and glory for themselves.
However, let me ask you this question, ‘How does it benefit us to gain all the power, glory and prestige in this world?’ As I have often mentioned during this season of Lent, we mankind are always desiring for more and more, as the devil is ever ready to tempt us with ever more temptations and persuasions to make us to disobey God and sin even more. If we pursue all the power, glory, prestige, lust and all forms of worldly satisfactions, we will never be satisfied and happy.
And it does not matter how much we have in life, but none of these will come with us to the time of judgment in the end of our lives. Everyone, be it rich or poor, powerful or weak, we will be equal then before God. We should build for ourselves our true treasure in God, and not the treasures of this world, and we can do this by being humble and meek, caring for others in our midst, especially those who are unloved, those who are poor and oppressed amongst us.
In order to become a disciple of Christ, we must indeed share the same cup of suffering that Our Lord had taken up. We must follow in the footsteps of the prophet Jeremiah and the Lord Himself, as how both were rejected by the world and all those who refused to listen to God. We are called to endure the same sufferings, challenges and difficulties, and as the Lord Himself said, we need to ‘take up our crosses and follow Him.’ That is the essence of true discipleship.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us renew our commitment to live in faith towards God during this blessed season of Lent. Let us throw far away, our pride, individuality, selfishness, and all the wickedness and sins we have committed in life. May the Lord be with us in our journey, so that we may grow to be ever more faithful, and draw ever closer to His righteousness and justice. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.