Every parent should be inspired, take courage, and be challenged in this exchange between Jesus and the mother of His Apostles, James and John:
“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached him [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,” (Matthew 20:20-21).
Who is Salome?
Isn’t she being disrespectful to God in how she speaks to Jesus? No, quite the opposite but before we learn why that is let’s first discover who this woman is. Other Gospel passages tell us her name is Salome. She is the wife of Zebedee, a fisherman, and along with his fishing partners, Simon and Andrew, her sons James and John were called at the sea of Galilee by Jesus to join his ministry. They did so and we are told in Luke (5:10-11), they, “left everything and followed him.”
Being a woman in ancient Palestine of the first century meant being dependent on the men in your family for financial support. Did she feel like many mothers and fathers today who hear their sons tell them they have a calling to the priesthood? Did she see her help in old age and the dream of future grandchildren disappear? Vocation directors say the biggest obstacle to a man becoming a priest is his parents. Auxiliary Bishop Gary W. Janak says,
“People love having a priest in the family as long as it is their nephew. Parents need to trust God and pray for their own sons to become priests and for their daughters to enter religious life.”
Lessons from Salome
When Salome approaches Jesus, she is not being disrespectful. Her request affirms his authority and hers. She comes to Jesus with confidence in her God-given vocation to motherhood for it says in the Book of Sirach (3:2), “For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children and confirms a mother’s authority over her sons.” Paying Jesus homage means she acknowledges his authority over her. Asking Jesus, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom,” is her saying, “You are King and God, I am mother. You called my sons to you and in my authority over them, I affirm your call. Make them great in your Kingdom!
Salome knew who she was in God. She believed Jesus was the Son of God and trusted Him. We can know this by her exchange above and because she was one of the few who is recorded as standing by his Cross at Calvary, (Mark 15:40).
This is the courage we mothers (and fathers) need to have! Her one error was in telling God how to make them great and therefore we hear Jesus respond, “You do not know what you are asking.”
God knows what our children need better than we ever can, but he does expect us, parents, to act in our God-given authority over our children. It says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (no. 2221) regarding the duties of parents, “The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.”
What should we pray for our children?
We pray as Jesus prays,
“Not my will Father, but your will be done,” (Luke 22:42).
If God’s Will is the priesthood or religious life for our children, we need to respond in faith and trust in His Providence for our children and for ourselves.
What Became of James and John?
The mother of James and John did receive what she wanted of her sons. Both achieved greatness.
James was the first Apostle to be martyred for the faith. He was beheaded in 44 A.D. by Herod Agrippa during an early Christian persecution. Our faith teaches us to be martyred for the faith is to immediately receive Eternity in the Kingdom of God.
John, the only Apostle at Calvary, wrote one of the four Gospels and the Book of Revelation. Most notably, he is the Apostle given on behalf of the Church, the Blessed Mother, and Virgin Mary as our Mother. When Jesus said to John,
“Behold, Your Mother,”
and we read, “And from that hour the disciple took her into his home,” (John 19:27), I imagine Salome achieving greatness herself by standing next to her son in the fullness of her maternal authority, affirming our Lord’s command and helping her son fulfill it!
Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood, and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.