Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem–the final hour approaches. He predicts his Passion, and offers great detail. Peter is not the one with foot in mouth in this episode. James and John jockey for top billing after the Lord.
I find this to be a strange choice for a Lectionary reading for the Sacrament of Penance. Perhaps the prediction of the coming suffering is apt, but this passage highlights the sin of ambition, if not inappropriate behavior as death draws near.
They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem,
and Jesus went ahead of them.
They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.
Taking the Twelve aside again,
he began to tell them what was going to happen to him.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Son of Man will be handed over
to the chief priests and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death
and hand him over to the Gentiles
who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him,
and put him to death,
but after three days he will rise.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him
and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right
and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the cup that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, “We can.”
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 or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Verses 32-34 and 42-45, which excise John and James by name, are an option.
I would counsel caution when looking at Bible passages that zero in on a specific sin. Ambition is considered a virtue in many Western corners. It wouldn’t surprise if people in our culture were to ask, “What did those two apostles say and do that was so wrong?!”
Perhaps the passage is rescued for general use by Jesus’ advice to be great through he service of all. That means serving everybody all, not just all the people I like.
This is another long passage that I wouldn’t think would suit well in most instances of form I, individual confession. And in a communal setting, I think a liturgy preparer has other, better choices that will strike a broader chord.
But I’m interested in what you readers think? Any wider applications I’ve missed? Ever hear this in liturgy?