March 11, 2020 (Wednesday) - Mom’s Ambitions - A Reflection on Matthew 20:17-28

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 favor 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 your 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.”

I had a young girl come to me for counsel a few days ago and she told me she felt fatigued by trying to please her parents, both of whom had totally different goals for her. The pressure, especially from her mother, was too much on her and it was driving her crazy. I suspect many of us can empathize, because a lot of parents try to fulfill their unfulfilled ambitions through their children, and it can become unbearable.

In our story today, the mother of James and John, traditionally identified as Salome (see Matthew 27:56;Mark 15:40; Mark 16:1), goes to Jesus with an audacious request: “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom,” she asks (Matthew 20:21). She had ambitions for her two sons. 

As we saw a few days ago (see Be Ambitious! https://youtu.be/qT8rSyZVljs) being ambitious is not always a bad thing. It becomes bad when it is selfish and motivated by a desire for power and prominence. And it becomes worse when it involves a parent, because it forces a child to become competitive, often to an unhealthy degree.  But you know that already, don’t you? 

But, you might say, as a mother shouldn’t I push my children? Yes, but the right way. And what is the right way? Let me tell you a parable. There was a young Italian boy who wanted to become a singer. When his mother took him to a music teacher for lessons, she was told her son had a “voice like a wind blowing through loose shutters.” Undaunted, the boy didn’t give up his dreams, and his mother didn’t dissuade him either. She prayed for him. 

In November 1903, the boy, now a young man, stepped onto the stage on the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and began to sing. The reviews called him “the voice of the century.” The young man, whose name was Enrico Caruso, became known as “The Great Caruso.” Neither mother or son had prayed for this title; they had simply prayed for a disciplined and committed life, and for God’s will to be done in his life. 

Let us ask for God’s will to be done in the lives of our children — not our own — and they will be blessed.