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The Word, The Truth

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Homily for Wednesday of the 2nd Wk of Lent, 08 Mar 2023, Mt 20:17-28

If you are a Bible reader and are familiar with the way Jesus is portrayed in the Gospels, I think you will agree with me if I say Jesus had a soft spot for mothers. He could not afford to turn down their requests. At the very least, he would not embarrass them.

Start with Peter’s mother-in-law, meaning, his wife’s mother (Mk 1:29). We’re told how Jesus quickly volunteered to give the old lady a pray-over the moment he heard that she was sick with a fever. Then you have that story about him on his way to a village called Nain (Lk 7:11) where he encountered a widow whose only son had died. How he was moved to his guts at the sight of this woman, and how he brought her dead son back to life.

There is another mother in the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mk 7:26)who was being shooed away by the disciples. Actually, Jesus had put up a mean face to her at the start, but he could not sustain it. What touched his heart was this pagan woman’s persistence for the sake of her sick daughter. She did not mind staying in a corner quietly like a dog waiting for crumbs of grace from the master’s table.

Remember also those mothers who were trying to get their children near Jesus so that they could have them blessed by him (Mk 10:14), and how the disciples were also driving them away? That was one of the rare occasions when Jesus got really angry with his disciples. I think what he really meant to say was, “Let the mothers bring their children to me.” He could not turn them down.

Or remember his own mother at that wedding feast at Cana in Galilee (Jn 2:1-11)? How Mama Mary pressured him to do something about the crisis situation that could bring embarassmen to the newly married couple? And how Jesus gave in, even if he had already said his hour had not yet come?

In today’s Gospel (Mt 20:20), Jesus allows the mother to represent her two sons, James and John, and communicate their request—namely, for positions of authority. First, he addresses the mother and asks, “What can I do for you?” After she tells him her wish, he says to her, “You do not know what you are asking for.” I think the gentle rebuke was his way of saying, “You wouldn’t ask for that if you truly love your sons.” But he did not say that anymore. He did not want to embarrass her. I imagine that he just gave the old woman’s face a gentle pat and dismissed her saying, “Let me talk to your sons now.” And that’s when he asked, “Can you drink the cup which I am about to drink?”

Mothers must have inspired Jesus a lot. Why? Because he saw in them the readiness to give up everything for their beloved. When he said, “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.” (Mt 20:26-27) He must have had mothers in mind. That’s the kind of role most mothers voluntarily embrace for the sake of their loved ones. It was the role his own mother played when he responded to the angel and said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord…” (Lk 1:38)

I remember my mother who raised thirteen children without a housemaid. She was interviewed when she received a Gintong Ina Award. At some point she was asked if she ever thought of applying for a job. She said no because she was more needed as a fulltime housewife. I vehemently reacted and said, “But what you did was equivalent to more than four full-time jobs!” She smiled and said, “Being mother is being a mother; it is not a job. It is a vocation.”

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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