[Jesus] said to her, “What do you wish?” – Matthew 20:21
Yesterday’s Gospel reading was the story of James and John, “the sons of thunder,” whose mother dares to go before Jesus on their behalf, (right after Jesus has announced for the third time that he is going to suffer and die, mind you), and ask if her sons can sit at his right and left hands in his kingdom. I’ve long been embarrassed for this mother whenever I read this passage. Because don’t we mothers (and fathers) sometimes lose sight of the larger picture and go to extremes to try to get the best for our kids over other people’s kids? In her defense, by asking such a thing she is indirectly implying that Jesus is the best because why else would she want her sons to have such a prominent share in his kingdom? Still, her understanding of Jesus while well-intentioned, is a narrow view.
What struck me as I read it this time, however, was not what the mother dares to ask, but that Jesus invites her to tell him! Surely Jesus knew what was on her mind, and yet he wants her to ask it anyway. And I wonder why?
But then I think of all the times I’ve told Jesus what I want without his even asking. And to this day, I can’t think of a time he’s not answered. As the old saying goes, however, sometimes his answer has been “no”, sometimes it’s been “yes”, and sometimes it has been “not yet”. But the “no’s” I’ve received are about things I no longer desire, and it is he that I credit for taking the desire away. The “yes’s” are those many things among which I try to count my blessings or remember when I rehearse my victories. These are, for the most part, the “easy” answers in my life.
It’s the “not yet’s” I find most difficult. The things I still desire to accomplish or attain, but have not yet been given. These are a struggle. But these are also where I can give meaning to these small struggles by uniting them with Christ’s own struggle. It assures me I am on the road of discipleship (Matthew 16:24), and reminds me that his grace will see me through.
The mother of the sons of Zebedee reminds us that we are free to tell Jesus exactly how we feel, and exactly what we want without apology. We have no need for pretense or false humility simply because he is Lord of Lords…because he is also our friend. And any good friend wants to give us the chance to say what we want, even when it may sound ridiculous, rude or short-sighted. Our Lord loves us that much! But, also like the mother of the sons of James and John, we are often short-sighted in our requests. And it is precisely because he loves us so much, that we can trust him to spare us from granting our wishes when it is not in our own best interest.
Reflect: Sometimes we hold too tightly to dreams and desire. What are the things you’ve desired for a long time that still haven’t happened in your life? Do you trust Jesus enough to let him lead you to your desires? Do you trust him enough to ease your suffering by removing your desire if what you want isn’t in your best interest? If not, be honest! Tell Jesus exactly how you feel. He loves you so much and he wants to hear from you!
Pray: Lord Jesus, just as you listened to the mother of James and John, listen to me today! Let me pour out my wants and desires to you. Help me to hold loosely to all of them, so that you may work in my life for your greatest good. Open my ears to hear and my eyes to see how you unite me with my desires or relieve me of them in the days ahead. Amen.