TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The first reading speaks of a mysterious suffering servant. In the Gospel, Jesus presents us with a seventh lesson on discipleship, namely, servant leadership. The second reading is a beautiful statement about the humanity of Christ, which should give us confidence when we approach him.
FIRST READING: Isaiah 53:10-11
The opening words: “The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity” could leave us with a pretty cruel and nasty image of God. We need to remember that what pleased God was not the suffering of the servant but rather the servant’s willingness to carry out his mission—even if it meant suffering and pain. God was pleased to use the servant’s suffering and sacrifice to bring good to many people, just as God used the suffering and death of people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., to bring justice and liberation to many people. Or just as God used the sacrifices of Mother Teresa to bring dignity to many who had lost their dignity.
SECOND READING: Hebrews 4:14-16
This reading contains a double exhortation to hold fast to faith and to approach the throne of grace with confidence. Jesus’ exalted state has not distanced him from us. On the contrary, he knows our limitations. As a man, he shared them with us. As an authentic human being, he carries with him all of the members of the human race and their needs to the heavenly throne of God. The second exhortation pertains to our relationship with Jesus and how that should give us great confidence to approach God’s throne boldly.
GOSPEL: Mark 10:35-45
This Gospel is filled with misunderstandings, paradoxes and reversals. James and John seek places of prominence in Jesus’ kingdom. They represent that part of us that desires to wield power and authority over others. Jesus offers a reversal of the common perception of power and authority— “Any one among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest.” The Gospel shows how little the Apostles had come in their understanding of the nature of true discipleship. When they assert that they can drink from his cup and share in his baptism, they have no idea of the implications of their answer. The “cup” and “baptism” are references, of course, to Jesus’ suffering on the cross. For the disciple, this baptism in time will involve the same daily dying of humble and selfless service—the lesson of discipleship being taught in today’s Gospel. In the Kingdom that Jesus is inaugurating, true greatness will involve a willingness to be humble servants of others.
The world pushes us to climb the ladder of success and to be powerful. Christ tells us to be humble servants. The world tells us that “great” people are those with prominent positions. Jesus tells us that great people are those who humbly serve others. How do you reconcile these opposites in your heart?