Feast of Saint James, Apostle
The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. -Matthew 20:28
When the disciples heard Jesus say this, I imagine they must have wondered what this meant. It likely stirred lively and concerned conversation. “What does he mean ‘give his life as a ransom for many’?” At this point in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus has now three times foretold his Passion. How the disciples must have wondered and worried over this among themselves.
From our vantage point almost two millennia later, we do not have to wonder. We know what this meant for Jesus. And we know what it means for us: an overwhelming self-giving love so that we might have life. All of us. Not one exception. A incomprehensible price. An incomprehensible ransom.
Yet we can still find ourselves back at that place of misunderstanding the essence of the Kingdom to which we are ransomed. We think, like the sons of Zebedee, that security will come if we are in what has long been thought to be a position of power, sitting beside a king who has power over his people, who wields “authority” over subjects. We human beings strive to maneuver ourselves into positions of power over others and all of of creation. We see this misunderstanding operative in so many ways–from the war in Ukraine to the sexual abuse crisis in the Church to all the ways we as human beings are harming creation and our common home.
These are just some of the blatant examples, yet I suspect from my own thoughts and struggles that this likely operates subtly in all our lives: each time we feel ourselves superior to or judge someone else; each time we retreat inward believing that we will not have enough if we share with someone else; each time we surrender to the pervasive forces today that call us to fear one another. Jesus does not call us to power over others but rather to power with all of our brothers and sisters, all of creation, not one exception. The power Jesus describes and lives turns upside down how we normally think of power. He invites us to mutual care of each other, to loving encounter and deep listening, to nourishing and uplifting the unique treasure that each of us holds in an earthen vessel.
This too is powerfully operative in the world today. Striking examples can be found in both Laudato Si’ and the current synodal process we as the Church are now living. Both call us into an inter-being which is dazzlingly inclusive, and manifests the “life of Jesus” in our body in this present moment–the Body of Christ. As Laudato Si’ 240 says so beautifully, “Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.”
And Synodality presents us a path forward–not an easy one for those of us who like details and want to know every twist and turn of the journey. It is rather a way which requires surrender together to the movement of the Spirit: “a true season of the Spirit! For we need the Spirit, the ever new breath of God, who sets us free from every form of self-absorption, revives what is moribund, loosens shackles and spreads joy” (https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2021/october/documents/20211009-apertura-camminosinodale.html).
May it be so.
Lissa Romell is the Administrator at St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.