29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 21st October, 2018

Liturgical Reflection

 

Isaiah 53:10-11 Hebrews 4:14-16 Mark 10:35-45


“Favour Not Mine To Give”

In today’s first reading from Isaiah we note that the Suffering Servant “gave his life as an offering for sin” to justify many and bear their guilt. WHY the world may ask? The modern phrase “stuff happens” seems to imply that there’s just no appropriate or satisfactory explanation for the meaning of suffering in our lives. It is Jesus himself who shows his disciples that the cost of true discipleship must include the cross.

What are we to make of the brash request from James and his brother John to be in favoured positions of glory, seated either side of Jesus in his kingdom? Today’s Gospel is reminding us all that there are no special favours without the cross. The brothers have heard Jesus’s teachings and have witnessed his numerous miracles but their own ambition and self-interest seem to be paramount at this stage of their lives! Such a request from these two disciples implies they have not yet absorbed what Jesus had already said about the suffering and death awaiting him in Jerusalem. Any “favours” are not his to give, but will come from the Father as is echoed in the Lord’s Prayer.

As Verna Holyhead reminds us, “The failure of his disciples to understand him, his mission, or his relationship to his Father, was an aspect of Jesus’s suffering. Their desertion on the eve of his passion would add to the bitterness of the cup he would drink, would be another flood of pain sweeping over him.” (Welcoming the Word, p. 172) How much the twelve had yet to grasp about the future awaiting Jesus and themselves!

 

 

On this occasion Jesus’ answer gives all his listeners, and us, a fuller picture of what will soon become the cost of true discipleship. “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.”

Our Sacramental Baptism clearly calls each of us to become faithful disciples of Christ, reaching out to others in loving care and service. With the light of Christ in our hearts and the strength of the Holy Spirit we are to become his hands, his feet, his mouth, bringing comfort and healing to those in need. Over the centuries Christian discipleship has led to the development of numerous new ministries in our Church. There are Social Justice groups in most parishes, striving to assist persecuted refugees, the abused and homeless, the poor and needy in our society. As the instruments of Christ’s healing love it is our mission to make his love visible in whatever way we can. Discipleship requires no less than our total commitment. As James and John discovered there are no crowns without the cross!

Denise Sullivan OP