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Twenty-ninth Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Readings: Isa 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45.
Reading 1 (Isa 53:10-11): The LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.
If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.
Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.
Reading 2 (Heb 4:14-16):
Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Gospel (Mk 10:35-45):
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the cup that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, “We can.”
Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Written by: Fr. Tien M. Dinh, OP.
I. THEME: The meaning and the value of sufferings
People want to have power to rule, to get respect and to be served. This ambition leads to jealousy, contention and destruction because no one wants to be lesser than others. A Christ’s disciple is taught to be a humble servant and to serve others. This model leads to love, unity and building up a community. Looking into the results of these two models, one can recognize right away which model shall be better for both individual and community. Because of selfishness and individual greed, many people deviated from Christ’s way.
All today readings concentrate on Christ, the model for humility and serving others. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah foretold what shall happen for God’s Suffering Servant. He shall be trampled with sufferings to redeem people’s sins and to fulfill God’s will. In the second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminded the faithful to imitate and to come to Christ every time they suffer because Christ went through all human sufferings so he knows how to help them to overcome sufferings. In the Gospel, when the two brothers, James and John came and asked Jesus a favor which is to let them sit one on his right and one on his left when he reigns in his kingdom. Christ warned them that they don’t know what they are asking for. Other apostles were indignant with the two brothers because they wanted to have that favor too. Jesus gathered them up and taught them: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”
1/ Reading I: “Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many.”
1.1/ The Suffering Servant sacrificed himself as an offering: God and human beings, when they must choose something they do it for a purpose. If the Suffering Servant chooses the suffering way, by sacrificing himself to be the sin offering, three following benefits shall happen:
(1) The benefit for God: “God’s will shall be done.” God’s will is His plan of salvation for people. He doesn’t want people to die but for them to inherit salvation. Because of his love for his Father and people, the Suffering Servants is ready to suffer for God’s will to be fulfilled and to bring people back to God.
(2) The benefit for others: Isaiah wrote, ”Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.” Everyone sins, and as a result, they must die. The Suffering Servant wants to take people’s sins and punishments on himself so that people’s sins are forgiven and they shall be justified before God. The result of people being justified is the everlasting life for human beings.
(3) The benefit for himself: The prophet Isaiah listed out: ”If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life… Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days.” Christ’s descendants are those whom he saved. In the Last Day, he shall reign over them anh his kingship shall have no end. Since he foresees the result, the Suffering Servant wants to accept all sufferings. He knows temporal sufferings can’t be compared with eternal happiness.
With these three great benefits, the Suffering Servant was ready to sacrifice himself, to endure all sufferings to fulfill God’s will.
1.2/ What shall happen if the Suffering Servant rejects sufferings?
(1) God’s will shall not be done. This can’t be happened because there is a perfect communion between the Father and the Son.
(2) Human beings, God’s beloved creature, shall be lost forever.
(3) He shall not see a great descendants being saved, and he can’t be their king forever.
2/ Reading II: Jesus Christ, who has been tested in every way, yet without sin.
2.1/ God chose the suffering way.
(1) Christ went through all sufferings of a human life: Many of us are easily discouraged and blame on God when we must face sufferings; but we shouldn’t forget that this is the way which God chose for Himself and His Son to bring salvation for us. We suffer because of our sins; but God has no sin to suffer these sufferings. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews advised the faithful to completely put their trust in Christ, “Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.”
(2) Sufferings can be overcome: One important thing that helped Christ to overcome sufferings because he knows sufferings are only temporal and can’t be compared with the glory which he shall possess. Christ came and lived in the world for only thirty-three years; he went through his public mission for only three years and his Passion and Death lasted only a week. After that is the glorious victory. We should learn this point from him to overcome suffering. We shouldn’t let worldly temporal glory prevent us from reaching the eternal life. Each time we are hurt by suffering, we should look at him on the cross, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”
2.2/ We need to learn how to suffer as Christ:
(1) The purpose of life must guide our life: Like Christ who always knows how to unite with his Father, especially in the most suffered moment of his life, he always asked for his Father’s will is fulfilled. Similarly to us, we must be sure that the purpose which God wants us to live in this world is to work for our and others’ salvation. If we lose this purpose, we shall easily fall into the traps of the individual enjoyment and the devil’s temptation.
(2) Our strength is in Christ: He left us his teaching in Scripture and his treasure of grace through his established sacraments. The author of this Letter advised us, “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” Sacraments are only the source of grace for our life: with grace we can overcome any kind of suffering; without grace, there is no way for us to overcome. Neglecting of the sacraments is the main reason why people can’t overcome sufferings.
3/ Gospel: If we share in his suffering, we shall also share in his glory.
3.1/ Human ambition: Jesus’ apostles are also human beings, though being called and guided by Jesus; they still had selfishness and ambition to exceed others. Today passage reported their reactions when Jesus foretold his Passion the third time. “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.””
3.2/ If they share in his suffering, they shall also share in his glory: Jesus used this moment to teach his disciples about the value of sufferings and the condition to have glory.
(1) Glory through suffering: Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.”
The cup which Jesus is about to drink is his Passion and Death; his baptism is the baptism in blood. The two brothers might not clearly understand it; but because their desire to have power is so strong, they said “yes” for Jesus’ question. This is also a prophecy for what shall happen to them in the future that they shall also pass through the way of suffering as Christ. James becomes the first martyr among the apostles in Jerusalem. John, though isn’t a martyr according to the tradition; but must pass through all kinds of suffering and live a long life.
(2) Glory is given by God: Jesus continued to tell them: ”But to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” We don’t know how heaven is organized, but according to Jesus, the ruler is the one who has love and serves others.
3.3/ Other apostles’ jealous reactions: According to human standpoint, there are only two most important places in heaven; but the two sons of Zebedee asked for them; therefore, the other ten apostles became indignant with James and John. We can see that this pattern often happens in human beings: beginning with a desire to be greatest, and then finding all possible way to attain this desire. When they can’t attain, they shall find all possible ways to contend with others. This leads to quarrel, unrest and separation. If the apostles keep fighting, they can’t attain salvation even for themselves, they can’t help others to attain their salvation. Jesus used this opportunity to teach them the followings:
(1) He differentiated between the purpose of his disciples and of the Gentile leaders:
+ The purpose of Gentile leaders: Jesus said to them: “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.” Since the Gentile leaders don’t believe in salvation for the next life, they pay attention to the power in this world. They want to be respected, to give order and to be served by others.
+ The purpose of Christ’s disciples: “But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” The purpose of Christ’s disciples is to attain salvation for themselves and others, so if they must sacrifice all for this purpose, they should be ready to do it.
(2) Christ sets a good example for his disciples: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Christ not only taught this, but also carried his cross to set an example for others to follow.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Today world has so many selfish people who thirst for power, fame and material gains; it needs more Christ’s disciples such as: St. Vincent de Paul, the pastor of Ars, Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II.
– As Christ’s disciple, we must imitate him to humbly serve others to bring life for others and to develop our community. If everyone wants to be worldly leaders, who shall serve the poor, the sick and the unfortunate?