30 May 2018
There is a story told about Jesus appearing to St Catherine of Siena and offering her a choice of a crown of gold or a crown of thorns. In love with Jesus, and desiring to imitate him in all things, she chose the crown of thorns.
Today’s gospel shows Jesus trying to warn his disciples of his own choice of redemptive suffering over earthly glory. Like Catherine’s choice, his is a choice of love.
James and John, meanwhile, are still gazing longingly at the crown of gold. They are yet to learn that Jesus’ glory is found precisely in the love that makes him willing to “give his life as a ransom.” When they do, they too will eventually make a lover’s choice, and reach for the crown of thorns.
I have often wondered what I would have chosen, had I not already known the story, and thus what the “correct” answer is. And the truth is, perhaps, that without Jesus, none of us would have understood the topsy-turvy logic of God – the logic of love – that leads us to choose suffering over comfort, service over glory.
But perhaps I do get the same choice, regularly even. Not between two crowns, but between a self-gift that might cost me something and a more attractive option that makes me look good.
My response to that choice is a varied one. But I keep trying. Because, ultimately, in Jesus and the love he shows, I see a love that is genuine, “intensely from the heart,” as St Peter describes it in the first reading.
And in this love I find freedom to be my true self.