By Heidi Hess Saxton
The mother of the sons of Zebedee, in some traditions known as Mary Salome and is thought to be one of the three women at the foot of the cross, is among my favorites of the hidden women of the Bible. She is a woman of deep faith and practicality, who when her sons follow in the footsteps in the Nazorean, does what she can to ensure their future in today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew:
The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
“What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
Imagine you are her for just a moment. At that moment, she looks into the eyes of the young rabbi, the mysterious healer, and teacher who has the crowds following after him, and cannot imagine a better place for her sons than at his side, basking in his reflected glory.
Jesus knows what is in store, however, and tries to caution her. “You do not know what you are asking…” But at that moment, the horrors of the cross are unimaginable. And so the apostles-in-training respond with all the confidence of youth. Oh, yes. They can drink. They can follow. They can go there.
And they do … for a while. But in the end, it is not the sons who persevere, but their mother. There she stood, holding up the devastated Mother of God as her Son’s blood trickles down the wood and soaks the earth below. And in that moment, she remembers her words. Put one at your right, and one at your left … and she sees the criminals struggle for breath, and sighs, grateful that God did not accept her offering.
It is a tender mercy that God does not allow us, broken and fragile as we are, to see too far ahead in the chain of events that are the course of human history. Over and over he reminds us, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.” and “Don’t be afraid.” and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” He does not ask us to say yes to what the future holds. He asks only for today.
What is your “yes” of the moment?
About the author:
Heidi is a wife and adoptive mother, contributing writer to WINE, and author of Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta and the follow-up companion, Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Servant, released January 2017). Heidi received a graduate degree in theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit in 2012, having converted to the Catholic faith in 1995 from the evangelical tradition. She met her husband, Craig, at the University of Michigan Ballroom Dance Club, and lives with her family (including two special-needs teenagers, a longsuffering Aussie shepherd and a snuggly Chiweenie) near South Bend, Indiana.