Fr. Tim was certainly a good sport about it…which is more than I can say about my dear wife.
It’s “Selfie Sunday” at our parish, you see – a chance for the school kids to earn a free ice cream cone if they, and enough of their classmates, manage to snap a selfie with one of our parish priests.
I wasn’t angling for ice cream, but I figured it might still be fun to get a selfie – Padre-and-Me. But when I looked up, I realized that Gerri had moved on. She was half-way across the parking lot, not wanting to be party to my mini-riot of self-referentiality.
Can’t say that I blame her. She’s seen my schtick before. I tend to take a LOT of selfies. A quick scan of my iPhone photo-roll turns up dozens, if not hundreds, of images: selfies at beautiful places like Slieve League, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon and Key West; selfies at family events like weddings, ordinations and funerals; selfies at ‘happenings’ – art shows, baseball games, basketball games; selfies at golf courses. (Just ask: I’ll be happy to show you a few dozen of my favorite shots…the next time you’ve got an hour or two you’d like to kill…)
All in good fun, I suppose, this panoply of selfies. And Fr. Tim seemed to agree when I approached him after Mass: “Sure, John, you’re just a kid at heart,” he said as he peered over my shoulder.
Only later did it occur to me that today’s gospel reading might well be taken as spiritual instruction for this seemingly harmless predilection of mine. Something tells me the sons of Zebedee would have known their way around the “selfie” button, too, had the technology been available in their day.
James and John [ahem]…came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Now THAT would have been a cool shot, don’t you think? Imagine the “likes” it’d be able to generate on Facebook! “You and me, Jesus…you and me. We’re gonna go viral!”
Thing is, the notion of a selfie doesn’t seem to appeal to Jesus in the least. His eyes, his heart, are focused elsewhere – on this mysterious cup and baptism he offers:
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
I can just imagine the blank look in their eyes as James and John mumble their reply. And so, Jesus goes on to explain a bit:
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This is tough stuff – an absurd message…one that tends to bounce right off those of us caught up in a selfie-fixated culture.
And so, we come together, as Eucharistic community, to drink the cup that Jesus offers. We need to do it, regularly. We have to raise His cup to our lips – and drink in this Sacrament – praying, with each sip, that Jesus will wash over our self-centeredness. Praying, with each sip, that He will transform us into Himself.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.