Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all!
29th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B
Isaiah 53:10-11; Heb 4: 14-16; Mk 10: 35-45
October 17/18, 2015
I don’t know how many of us sitting here today have witnessed someone suffer and die. If you have served in the Armed Forces in a combat zone, no doubt you have. Others may have been present with a loved one as they suffered and died, and there was nothing you could do.
What is our response when this happens? Fear? Anger? Numbness and denial? Compassion?
In our Gospel today, what we didn’t hear was right before today’s passage, Jesus had told his Apostles that he was going to suffer and die. Immediately, James and John, almost in complete denial, make a demand of Jesus.
“Teacher, do for us what we ask of you. Give us privilege and honor!” When we hear this demand placed on the Lord by James and John, we get like the other ten Apostles, don’t we? We find such a demand rather arrogant, almost “adolescent.”
God, give me what I want!
What did Jesus do when he heard it? He asked two questions: 1.) Can you drink the cup I will drink?” and 2) “Will be baptized with the same baptism with which I will be baptized?”
In the Gospel of Mark, anytime we hear of the “cup” that Jesus drinks, or the “baptism” he undergoes, Mark is talking about Jesus’ suffering and death. So Jesus asked James and John, “Can you suffer and die with me?”
These are questions all of us need to ask ourselves. Can we drink the cup of Christ? Will I go where Jesus has gone, even to Calvary, the Cross? Maybe we should meditate on this each time we approach Holy Communion to receive the cup of the Blood of Christ, the cup of his suffering. Do we consider in receiving his Blood we are sharing his suffering?
If we follow Jesus, we end up drinking the cup; we end up being baptized. Yes, we will drink the cup! We will suffer in serving the will of God for us, which means the means to salvation for us lies in serving God and each other. This is the suffering, the “cup,” the “baptism,” because we must let go of ourselves, our will, our plans, our egos, and embrace the will of God and become a servant to those in need. To let go of all of that and embrace the Lord and those in need, that requires a kind of suffering.
But we are an adolescent people all too often. We often have adolescent prayers and demands: “I want you to do for me what I want! I want to be special, to have power and glory, to be the star of the team.” We act like we want to be God, don’t we? Our spiritual lives are stunted. We haven’t moved beyond the tenth grade in our search for spiritual maturity. “I want people to bow to me and my will, not me to theirs.”
It is interesting that James and John, the two Apostles closest to Jesus, were the ones to make the demands which revealed their spiritual adolescence. Yes, even the most “religious” among us still have a long way to go at times. Satan can get us to fall into a rather prideful arrogant sense of self-importance. Yet, Jesus says that he is a servant, one who attends to the needs of others and gives his life and his will over to the will of the Father so much so that he says it is not his place to award places of honor to his followers; only God the Father does that. Jesus says that he is a servant even to the point of dying for us. He serves us and his Father by giving up his life so others may live. Here we see Jesus the Deacon, i.e., the one who serves.
Jesus’ glory was in his servanthood, in being a good deacon, in serving the needs of others, in fulfilling the Father’s will. Jesus tells us that to be his followers is to be a servant, to let go of ourselves and our adolescent grasping for power, prestige and success, and embracing the needs of someone else by serving them.
The spiritually mature person says, “Let me drink from you cup!” which is to say, “Let me bear your need, your pain, your distress, your sadness, your illness, your loneliness, your discouragement, your fear, your confusion, your loss, your grief, your poverty.” It is to say to every unwed mother, “I will support your child” and to every frightened and hidden foreigner or refugee in our midst, “I will welcome you” and to every elderly person in this parish who is in the nursing home, hospital or shut-in their own homes, “I will visit you” and to every newly married couple, “I will support and advise your marriage.” It is to say to every dying person, “I will be with you as you suffer and die for you are precious in my eyes in your suffering.” It is to say to the confused teenager, “I’ve been there. Follow me, and I will show you the way.”
God offers you the cup. He has the cup in his hands and he extends it to you, saying, “Will you drink from it, the cup from which I drank, the cup given me by the Father?” Our glory lies in drinking from the same cup as Jesus drank. Meditate on this when you receive the Blood of Christ at communion time. You are drinking from the same cup of salvation, of suffering from which Jesus drank.
Don’t be afraid of suffering in this way. Don’t be afraid to experience the needs, the sufferings of others by serving them. Don’t be afraid to conform your will to the will of God for you by knowing him, loving him, and by serving the needs of others as a true servant, giving your life so others may live.
“For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”