Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent – Option 1 – Mt 20:17-28
In today’s Gospel, Matthew recounts the third time that Jesus foretells His death and resurrection, and this foretelling is the most detailed. After the discussion with the disciples, Christ ends by stating, almost in passing, a very profound truth, “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” There are two things that call our attention: first, the Greek word translated as “just so,” hósper (ὥσπερ), is emphatic; it means more “indeed just as,” or “just exactly like.” Secondly, the word for ransom, λύτρον (lutron), implies “the price paid on someone’s behalf.” The corresponding term is found throughout the Old Testament, usually referring to the price paid to spare someone from punishment, to release them (which is the root verb of the word) from what they should endure. Thus, we are to behave “just exactly like” the Son of Man, imitating Him both in service and in giving our lives so that others might live. In imitation of Christ, this sacrifice is to be a complete offering. Saint John Chrysostom wrote: “It is as if he were saying, ‘I willed not even to stop at death but even in death gave my life as a ransom. For whom? For enemies. For you. It is for you. Me for you.”
In a particular way, these words apply to us, because as religious and specifically as those called to “prolong the Incarnation,” we are called to lay down our lives so that others might live. This is shown especially as we strive to be true spiritual fathers and mothers, bringing new life to God’s children through prayer, sacrifice, and service. In a famous letter from Saint John of Avila to Venerable Louis of Granada about spiritual fatherhood (but with words that can be applied to spiritual mothers and biological parents as well), the saint makes this point beautifully. He writes: “With great attention and almost smiling to myself I read the words that Your Reverence wrote in your letter, that it seems to be a sweet thing to beget children and bring souls to the knowledge of their Creator; and I replied within myself: Dulce bellum inexpertis [war seems to be something sweet to those who haven’t experienced it]. . . . If this work is well done, the children we are to beget by the word should not be children of voice as much as children of tears. . . . Those who take on the office of father [or mother] will learn to weep. . . . At the cost of cries and the offering of one’s life, God gives children to those who are true fathers, those who not once, but rather many times, offer their lives so that God might give life to their children.”
The condition of being a faithful religious who bears fruit for God’s kingdom is to offer our lives entirely to God on behalf of those we encounter. Let us ask, through the intercession of Mary, Refuge of Sinners, for the grace to love Christ more and more throughout this Lenten season, and, following His example, to give our lives as a ransom for many so as to become the spiritual fathers and mothers that God asks us to be.