Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(for the Liturgical Year 2021)

March 3, 2021
Wednesday of the second week of Lent

1st Reading: Jeremiah 18:18-20

In desperate straits, Jeremiah pins his hope on God

"Come, let us decide what to do with Jeremiah," people say. "There will still be priests to guide us, still wise men to advise us, still prophets to proclaim the word. Come, let us bring charges against him, and let us not heed any of his words."

Give heed to me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say! Is evil a recompense for good? Yet they have dug a pit for my life. Remember how I stood before you to speak good for them, to turn away your wrath from them.

Responsorial: from Psalm 31

R./: Save me, O Lord, in your steadfast love

Release me from the snares they have hidden
 for you are my refuge, Lord.
 Into your hands I commend my spirit.
It is you who will redeem me, Lord. (R./)

I have heard the slander of the crowd,
 fear is all around me,
 as they plot together against me,
 as they plan to take my life. (R./)

But as for me, I trust in you, Lord,
 I say: 'You are my God.
 My life is in your hands, deliver me
 from the hands of those who hate me.' (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 20:17-28

Leaders: remember that the greatest must be as servants

While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised."

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favour of him. And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to him, "We are able." He said to them, "You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be our servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

The cost of discipleship

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Evangelical pastor who was hanged in Berlin in 1945 for his part in trying to remove Adolf Hitler from power, wrote an autobiographical memoir called The cost of discipleship. Both of today’s readings mention the hardship that prophets had to face, for speaking truth to power. Jeremiah’s people and even own family have turned against him, and the Jewish leaders wanted to destroy Jesus, for threatening their status quo. But Jeremiah was trying to serve the welfare of his people. "Remember, Lord, that I stood before you to speak in their behalf." What he wanted for them was health, peace and life. The mission of Jesus, likewise, was to help the needy and marginalised. "I am come to seek and to save what was lost."

Courageous and costly service like this needs a spiritual foundation. Jeremiah’s preaching was motivated by his sense of what God wanted for his people. But in his confession he also prays that those who rejected him may be punished. It seems likely that the prophet’s so-called "confession" was written as a personal diary, never intended for publication. A later editor must have found this diary after the prophet’s death, and inserted parts of this candid document among Jeremiah’s other writings. When cursing his enemies, he was not at his best. But when venting his feelings and emotions he was saying, "Here, dear God, is how I feel. Please help me!"

Even when he felt in utter darkness, he prayed to know the Lord’s will. He knew that God knows what we go through, and that in the end we are safe in God’s hands. Even Jesus did not claim to know every detail of the Father’s plan (Matt 24:36) and so he could not promise James and John the privileges they sought.

(Drinking from the Lord’s cup.) Jesus asked James and John, "Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?" Were they were willing to share his cup, a symbol for following wherever he may lead, even at the risk of their lives. Later, in Gethsemane Jesus prayed, "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me;" but he went on to drink that cup in full, on the cross, giving himself into the Father’s hands. At the last supper, he shared the chalice of sacrifice with his disciples, and all willingly drank from it. Not long afterwards all deserted him and fled.

In spite of their promises, James and John failed to follow Jesus when the risk grew too great. We too are challenged to follow where he leads. Like the apostles, we share at the Lord’s table and drink from his cup. Sharing in the Eucharist commits us to his way of service. This spirit of self-giving service towards others, not lording it over them, is the moral legacy of Jesus. By sharing in his Mass, will commit to following the one who came not to be served but to serve.