October 21, 2012 – Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Most of us can relate with James and John in today’s gospel. After all, attaining power and prestige and being honored for who we are and what we do is undoubtedly alluring. Surely we’d all like to be looked upon favorably, to gain the respect and the envy of others. And society encourages us in our quest for power, prestige, and the envy of our neighbor. We must be the best of the best. We must hold the highest place — in our careers, in our home lives, and even in our hobbies. To our society, that is what’s important.
But in today’s gospel, Jesus corrects that thought process. Confronted with James and John’s wishes to be granted a place of honor in His kingdom, Jesus assures them that gaining their place in the heavenly kingdom, being “first” in the kingdom of God as it were has nothing to do with the honor and prestige of the world. In fact, He tells them that the life of a disciple involves the complete opposite of worldly power and prestige. The life of a Christian disciple is all about service.
While James and John were worried about themselves and the places they would occupy in heaven, Jesus tells them that they are called to think about others. That is what makes a man a truly worthy disciple.
“Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all” (gospel).
Indeed, we are all called to a life of selfless service. We are called to give of ourselves in loving care for others.
But Jesus doesn’t simply preach to us about true stewardship, He has showed us the way. He emptied Himself, became man, and gave of Himself — whole and entire — for the sake of humanity, all in selfless love.
“Through his suffering my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”
Today’s second reading reminds us that Jesus understands our weaknesses, not merely on an intellectual level, but through experience. He knows that living life with our fallen nature and striving to glorify God, to love and serve others, is hard to do.
“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” (second reading).
And still He calls us to abandon the ways of the world, to strive for greatness based on His standards — offering ourselves in loving service to others, just as He has done.
“For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to give His life as a random for many” (gospel).