29th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, CYCLE B
Isaiah 53: 10-11 + Psalm 33: 4-5, 18-22 + Hebrews 4: 14-16 + Mark 10: 35-45
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: October 17, 2021
It certainly must have stung Jesus when two of his closest friends misunderstand him.
As James and John ask for the best seats, it must have felt like they were rubbing salt
in the wound of his loneliness, for Jesus had just told them, and the other 10,
for the third time about his upcoming passion and death in Jerusalem.
They just don’t get it, and even beyond not getting it, James and John are going
in the opposite direction of the cross—the way of the world—
seeking power and prestige, wanting others to serve them.
Of the 12 apostles, Jesus is closest to James and John, and to Peter.
These 3 go up the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus
and they accompany him to the Garden of Gethsemani.
But remember when Jesus told the 12 the first time about his upcoming passion,
that he would be nailed to a cross and give his life for others,
Peter had also misunderstood, taking Jesus aside and saying, “This shall not be so.”
Jesus had to reprimand Peter, as leader of the group, and surely Jesus’ heart
was wounded in some way by this complete misunderstanding.
But with Peter, with James and with John, Jesus shows great patience.
Even when James and John tell Jesus to do for them whatever they ask,
he responds with openness and generosity: “What do you wish me to do for you?”
It’s all part of his passion on the way to the Passion, it’s all part of the way of the cross
on the way to the Cross.
For the cross is the culmination of Jesus giving his life away every day of his life.
What James and John do not get is that the throne for Jesus is not a golden seat in
some palace, but his throne is the cross, that Jesus’ glory is revealed by the crucifixion.
Jesus’ glory is at its height when he empties himself completely from the cross
out of love for sinful humanity.
Jesus, as the Suffering Servant, reveals his glory by suffering for the sake of others
and bearing the crushing burden of their guilt.
We know who ends up being on his right and left when he reveals the glory
of his saving love from the cross—two sinners, criminals.
The only ones who have a claim on being at the side of Jesus are sinners
and those who have known failure.
That’s the problem with the disciples.
They are too impressed and concerned with their privileged place
in the company of Jesus.
They don’t get it that it’s not until you fail and hit bottom, not until you know your sin, that you can receive what Jesus offers.
Those who are keenly aware of their sin know their need for a Savior.
Those who have hit rock bottom know that only the power flowing
from the Crucified Lord can lift them up to a new life.
The twelve apostles do not know this truth when Jesus is crucified.
Otherwise they would have stepped forward when Jesus was arrested and said,
“Take me, too, for I am one of his followers.”
Otherwise, they would have been crucified on the right and left of Jesus.
Gradually, though, those closest to Jesus come to understand,
once they acknowledge their unworthiness and live with the shame of their denial
at having abandoned Jesus when he needed them most.
Then, and only then, do they stop competing for the places of honor.
When Jesus, risen from the dead, comes back for them, not to punish them
but to forgive them, to lift the burden of their blame and shame,
and gift them with His Spirit, then they go out to give their lives away.
Anointed with the power of the Spirit, given a second chance at being faithful to Jesus, they then seek only the glory of radical self-giving love.
Then they can ask others with Jesus: “What do you wish me to do for you?
Ancient cultures had a way of moving young men out of self-centered life
and into a life lived for others.
Across the world before modern times, many different cultures used initiation rites
to teach young men five universal truths, truths which confront the “lies”
of our 21st century culture.
The truths flowing from the difficult experience of these initiation rites are:
1 Life is hard
2 You are not that important
3 You are not in control
4 You are going to die
5 Life is not about you—you are about life and about serving others
These initiation rites were meant for young men, because young women, as they bore children in their own bodies & then served these children, learned these important truths.
These universal truths need to be taught today to both young men and young women.
A number of children in our country are given more than they need
and grow up believing the lie that life is supposed to be easy,
thinking they should not have to work hard or suffer in any way.
They are fed the lie that you can only be happy if you are constantly being entertained.
That’s because their phones and their I-pads become appendages of their bodies,
a central part of their lives from a very young age.
The Suffering Servant, the King of Kings who emptied himself to become one of us,
and one with us, teaches us the way to abundant life.
He challenges us to move beyond selfishness to giving ourselves away in love of others.
He invites us by the example of his life to move out of deadly trap of thinking
only about “me” and instead ask with Him of others:
“What do you wish me to do for you?”
Jesus teaches us that life is not about what we get but about what we give away.
Jesus Christ understands our human weakness, and so he persists in teaching us
the truth that we need to daily die with him to a self-centered life
in order to rise with him to a life focused on living for others.
He not only teaches this truth but also shows us what this radical self-giving looks like. We are reminded every time look at the cross or see sacrificial love in action around us.
Finally, because he understands our weakness, he helps us, if we allow him,
to live in this new way.
For through him and with him and in him are we able to live life with a Servant’s heart.
Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi