Homily (Reflection) for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday of the Year (B) (Mission Sunday) (21st October, 2018) on the Gospel
Is 53:10-11;Ps 32:4-5.18-20.22 (R.V. 22);
Mk 10:35-45 or Mk 10:42-45.
“A teacher was testing the children in her Sunday School class to see if they understood the concept of getting to heaven. She asked them, ‘If I had a big garage sale, sold my house and my car, and gave all my money to the Church, would that get me into Heaven?’
“‘NO!’ The children chorused.
“‘If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?’
“Again, the answer was, ‘NO!’
“‘So how can I get into Heaven?’ she asked.
“A five-year-old boy shouted out, ‘YOU GOTTA BE DEAD’” Culled from Thomas, T. (2010). Spice up your homilies. Mumbai: St Pauls, p. 119.”
Topic: True Measure of Greatness.
In the gospel, the sons of Zebedee requested for places of honour when Christ sits in his glorious throne. Note that Mark’s account varies from Matthew’s where the request was made by their mother, cf. Matt 20: 20-21. However, they got surprised packages. The first was more of questions, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized?” (Mk 10:38, NLT).
James and John unanimously chorused: “We are able” (Mk 10:39) in response to these questions. Like the other ten and the Jews, James and John never understood the kind of Messiah Christ is. They were looking from the political angle; a great king who will give the Jews political freedom, cf. Acts 1:6. Nevertheless Jesus’ kingship is not of this world, cf. Jn 8:23; 18:36. Jesus’ kingdom is within us, in the hearts and lives of his followers, cf. 1Cor 6:19; Rev 3:20.
Their response however ushered in the second package, although a promise yet very far from what they set out for,
You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen (Mk 10:39-40, NLT).
They were looking for greatness from the point of view of the world. But Jesus insists that there must be a difference because they are not of the world, (cf. Jn 15:19). They are no longer the people of the world as they used to be, cf. Jn 17:16; 1Jn 2:16. The direction they were looking at could only lead them to damnation, cf. 1Tim 6:9-10. True greatness is in what one is for the other person and not in the position one occupies, quality one possesses, wealth one hoards, connections established, and so on. Someone is truly rich if and only if his or her riches are of importance to his or her neighbour/s, cf. Matt 19:21.
“A pig was lamenting his lack of popularity. He complained to the cow that people were talking about her gentleness and her kind eye, while its name was used as an insult. He admitted that cows give milk and cream, but he maintained that pigs give more. ‘Why we give bacon and ham and bristles and people even pickle our feet’, he grumbled. ‘I don’t see why you cows are so highly esteemed.’ The cow thought a while and then said gently, ‘May be it’s because we cows are giving while we are living’” Culled from Sagayanathan, A. (2009). Launching Pad: Stories for Sunday Homilies, Year – A, B & C. Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, p. 226.
Whatever one has that does not touch the other person positively is not worth having. Hence to their angry brothers Jesus said,
You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:42-45, NLT).
To James and John who professed their willingness to take both the baptism and the cup of suffering of the Lord, Jesus promised martyrdom; the sure way to true greatness just as the five-year-old boy told their Sunday School teacher: ‘YOU GOTTA BE DEAD’. Christians should look for the good of their brothers and sisters just as they look for theirs, cf. Matt 19:19; Gal 5:14. It is important to learn how one can be of benefit to others while alive. Again, unlike King Herod who told Herodias’ daughter: “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it” (Mk 6:22), when James and John requests Jesus: “Teacher, we want you to do for us WHATEVER we ask of you,” He first enquired: “What is it you want me to do for you?” While making promises or boasting one must remember that he/she is very limited. We are just humans. Finally, as we celebrate the Mission Sunday, it is important to remind ourselves that we are to serve others.
Bible Reading: Job 36:22-33; 1Pt 5:1-11; Jn 17:6-26; 1Tim 6:3-10.
Thought for today: How do you want to be great?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, you came into the world not to be served but to serve. Give us the grace to be slaves and servants to our brothers and sisters after your example with all that you have blessed us with – Amen.
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