Sunday, October 18, 2009

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear All,

If we ever were looking for a place where some followers of Jesus appear rather immature, in a real arrogant attitude, this week’s passage from Mark is one of them, when it talks about James and John with a selfish request: “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left”. The Zebedee brothers are cozying up to Jesus for some good seats at the victory party. Their lack of really understanding what Jesus has been telling them comes through when they respond yes without a blink in their eyes to Jesus’ question about drinking the cup he will drink. He had been telling them about his upcoming suffering and death, but it does not fit into their worldview about Kingdom and once again we can connect with them not “getting it”. The other ten disciples become angry, even offended. We do not know if they were upset with James and John or with Jesus for the response he gave: “it is not mine to give (the good seats) but it is for those for whom it has been prepared”. Recognizing their indignation Jesus brought them back together for a ‘come to Jesus’ conversation and we read one of the most important statements in Mark about Jesus ‘mission statement’: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve”, followed by unquestionable clarity about his Passion, death and Resurrection: “and to give his life as a ransom for many." Still to this day it sounds rather counterintuitive that to be leader one has to be servant. Jesus clarifies for us that in the gentile world the ruler is served, but in the Kingdom of God, that is in the Christian way “whoever wishes to be great …. will be your servant, .. to be first… will be the slave of all”. That Jesus walked his talk when his humble services went beyond washing his disciples’ feet at the last supper, to dying on the cross ‘as a ransom for many’.

The First Reading is from one of the Servant Songs from the late Isaiah, recorded about 600 BCE. It represents how a faithful Jew is to look upon the sufferings of his own life. A faithful Jew will suffer and his torment will atone for his sin and those of his Jewish community. He sees his life, not as a curse, but a way of God to bless. We can interpret it as a prophesy that came true in the passion and death of Jesus. While I have difficulties reconciling in my own mind a loving God that is pleased when I am crushed in infirmity, when I fast forward to the stronger, more mature person I have become after some of those crushing experiences, I am reminded of an example in the mineral world. The steel only becomes so hard and strong after the iron has been melted to liquid state (crushed?). At the personal level it brings out a stronger more mature person. In the case of Christ it is as ransom for the sins of all mankind.

The Letter to the Hebrews, which we have been reading for the last three weeks, presents a passage that encourages us to take our confession of sins to the one priest “who has similarly been tested in every way” and can relate to our struggles, Jesus, the Son of God.

The complete text of today’s Readings can be found at

With God’s Love and Blessings,


For a Print version (pdf file) go to

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Rainer! We too don’t get it, especially by trying to avoid suffering and resisting it as much as we can, by thinking we are the last coke on the desert and wanting to be served. This human nature!

    Have a nice week,