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29th Ordinary Sunday (B)                                                                 Mk 10:35-45

There is a story of a man who was stranded alone on a small Pacific island for many years. When some finally came to rescue him they noticed there were three straw huts on the island. Curiously, they asked him why the three huts? “Well, one is my house and the other is my church,” said the man. “But what about the third hut,” they said. “Oh, that’s the church I used to belong to!” — the moral of the story: — some people just can’t be satisfied.

We could apply this concept to the apostles James and John. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were hand picked by the very person they believe to be the Messiah, the Christ. The same person they have personally seen transfigured into glory, as his divinity shown from him like the sun, before their very eyes. But the kingdom that this Messiah brings would be spiritual, not political, but this was not grasped by Christ’s contemporaries including the apostles. Pride enters into these great saints and tempts them to ask the Lord for the greatest places in the kingdom next to him. This is a human desire, a short sighted human need that completely ignores the humility that Jesus has tried to teach them since they were chosen. His response to them is gentle and caring, “you do not understand what you are asking.” Jesus realizes that they don’t understand what he has been telling them. So, he asks if they are ready to accept the cup he is about to drink, although Jesus is innocent and pure, he consumes the cup that was filled for sinners; filled with the baptism: symbolic for immersion in trial and suffering as stated in the Hebrew Scriptures. He has warned them three times now on their journey about his up-coming torture and death but it has fallen on deaf ears. Unfortunately, they are blinded to the reality of what is about to happen. We, on the other hand, realize the gravity of his words. We know that Jesus will be beaten severely, slapped, spit upon, pierced with thorns, and nailed to a tree. This will be his baptism, this is the cup he drinks. 

Without totally realizing what they are accepting, they assure him they can handle this baptism. In an attempt not to frighten them Jesus promises them participation in the atoning suffering of the cross after their acceptance. Jesus then proceeds to teach the apostles, and us, that we must not strive for worldly power. Worldly power, in any form,  has no meaning for us. When we stand face to face with our divine judge worldly power will be useless in our judgment. What will count is our service to others, our actions as servant. Jesus connects this idea with his own suffering and shows us that in Christian life service is connected to suffering. For three reasons they go hand in hand. First, service always involves suffering because you can’t help another without some sacrifice on your part. Second, God always invites those who suffer to put their sacrifices as an aid to others by uniting it to his own suffering, — as the saying goes: “offer it up.” And finally, we must learn to be sensitive to the suffering of those around us by concentrating on the needs of others rather than on our own needs. We can heighten these virtues through prayer; because Jesus reminds us “without me you can do nothing.”

Another saint gave us the prayer to assist us: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is error, truth; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light. And where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

That, my friends, is the teaching of Jesus. That is what Jesus is tried to teach his apostles and through them teaching all of us. The prayer is a translation of the teachings of Jesus  into words that instill in us the zeal to live them. God is love and from love comes the gift of mercy.

We who have known St. John Paul II, have seen a perfect example of this lesson . This  holy father, the pope, showed us on a daily basis how to unite suffering to service. He who served the Lord, who was the Vicar of Christ, who prayed unceasingly to our Blessed Mother and was the servant of the servants of God. He continued to serve as he suffered arthritis and Parkinson’s disease which ultimately led to his demise. This holy man was a witness to the teachings of Christ right to the end. I have learned, as a cancer survivor, that it is a true grace when we are allowed to suffer with Jesus and continue with his work. And this grace gives us a confidence that we will receive mercy and favor from him. Each of us must ask: are we accepting our suffering and sharing with Christ? Are we living as servants of Christ? Do we share the love of God with all those who show us the mercy and forgiveness that he shows to us?    

Ext meeting © JOSEPH MEILINGER 2021