Wednesday: 27 February, 2013 –– Second Week in Lent
Jeremiah 18:18–20 / Matthew 20:17–28
We like to be liked. We like to be affirmed. We like to win. We like to be congratulated.
In a neutral context, on a level playing field, in world with equitable justice, those things are well and good. But.... that is not the nature of the world we live in. It is human nature –– fallen human nature –– to desire those things in ways that either elevate ourselves or demean others unjustly. The mother of James and John tried to supplant the other disciples for positions of self-serving honor. The crassness is magnified by Jesus’ exemplary reply: Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.
There are people who get nasty when their selfishness is exposed. Just as there is something in us that loves self-exaltation, there is also something in us that hates to rebuked and humbled. This is a core issue of warfare within the human spirit: humility or self-exaltation? As the previous readings this week have shown, it is the one who is honest and humble that God justifies.
But when we choose to live in honesty and humility before God, we may discover there are others who resent us. There are people who do not want to hear the truth or see the truth modeled. Nothing reveals the ugliness of ungodliness like a life infused with the holiness of God. This is what led to Jesus’ death –– too many people could not tolerate his goodness.
This was not unique to Jesus. He told them: in the same way your forefathers killed the prophets. If you read the prophets’ stories –– Jeremiah and Daniel come prominently to mind –– there are people who go out of the way to spy on their goodness just to get them in trouble. This is the mindset described in Wisdom: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against out doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is hardship for us (Wis 2:12–14).
This is the very attitude we are hearing today from a hostile secularism –– what Pope Benedict has called “the tyranny of relativism.” And as we find ourselves more and more the target of ridicule and even hatred, we will also find ourselves in the inner battle of what is most important to us: We like to be liked, and we do not like to be marginalized.
We have to make a decision about what will be most important in our lives. Will it be the acceptance and praise of the world-spirit with its fleeting pleasure, or will it be the humble faithfulness to a truth that is found only beyond ourselves in the goodness of Christ the Lord?
Again and again.... choose faithfulness.