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Wednesday, Second Week of Lent

February 23, 2005

Blessed St. Polycarp’s Day! (look for his story in a neighboring post)

Jeremiah 18:18-20 (Jeremiah has prayed for his persecutors)
Psalm 31:5-6, 14-16 “Save me, O Lord, in Your steadfast love”
+Matthew 20:17-28 (the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve)

Today’s readings speak of persecution too, and they follow up on yesterday’s description of holy authority. Jeremiah’s enemies (i.e., those who resented his authoritative call to repentance) came to the conclusion that they’d have nothing to lose by getting rid of him, and began to plot ways to trap him. Jeremiah protested to God that these were the very people he had gone out of his way to help, the ones from whom he had turned away God’s wrath. As a true, holy leader, he had sacrificed himself for them.

Jesus knew that the Jewish leaders resented his call to repentance too. He tried to prepare His disciples for the inevitable on the way to Jerusalem, explaining that when they arrived He would be betrayed, condemned and killed. James and John didn’t quite get it. They thought Jesus was going to Jerusalem to take over, so they got their mother to ask for choice positions for them in the kingdom. The other apostles, by their indignation toward James and John, demonstrated that they didn’t grasp Jesus’ vision of leadership either. Taking advantage of a teaching opportunity, Jesus not only reminded them that He was going to die, but also gave them a lesson in leadership. He told them that sharing in His leadership means sharing in His suffering (“Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink?” -Matthew 20:22). Godly leaders do not seek out the most honored place, but rather the most humble. They are eager to lighten someone else’s load, rather than to demand their own comforts, and they are prepared to lay down their very lives for the sake of those entrusted to their care.

May we follow Jesus’ example of leadership, making whatever sacrifices are necessary to lead others to eternal life.

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