Friends, today in our Gospel the mother of James and John asks Jesus on their behalf for high places of authority in his kingdom. Ah, there is the voice of ambition. Some people don’t care at all about money or power or pleasure—but they care passionately about honor. A lot of people can identify with James and John. They want to go places, they want to be movers and shakers in society. Perhaps a number of people reading this reflection are filled with these emotions.
But Jesus turns the tables on them: “You do not know what you are asking.” He is indeed a King, and he will indeed rule Israel, but his crown will be made of thorns, and his throne will be a Roman instrument of torture.
And so he tries to clarify: “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” The key to honor in the kingdom of God is to drink the cup of suffering, to be willing to suffer out of love, to give one’s life away as a gift. Look at the lives of the saints. It is not about aggrandizing the ego, but emptying it out.