1st Reading: Isaiah 53:10-11; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16; Gospel: Mark 10:35-45
THEME: POSITIONS OF HONOUR DEMAND HUMBLE SERVICES TO ALL.
Power, authority and positions of honour are what many people always aspire to attain in life. Whenever a new regime is about to assume office, many people would begin to lobby so as to secure political appointments as ministers, commissioners, ambassadors, chairmen, etc. Unfortunately, some of them see those attainments as opportunities to show off, enrich themselves, and trample on others, rather than rendering humble services. They might become indignant whenever they notice that other ambitious persons are also craving for that same position, and thus, may plot to eliminate them.
Meanwhile, many Sundays ago, we have continued to witness the ambitiousness and wrong conception of Jesus’ disciples as regards the messianic Kingdom, despite Jesus’ three predictions of His passion (sufferings and death) to them. Since they were already anticipating an earthly messiah, they never envisaged Jesus Christ to come and suffer any misfortune here on earth. That was why Peter wanted to dissuade Him when He spoke about His sufferings and death (Mark 8:32).
In today’s GOSPEL, due to the same wrong conception of the messianic Kingdom, James and John requested that Jesus grants them prestigious echelons in His glory. They wanted to begin early to lobby for top ministerial positions before Jesus Christ establishes His earthly kingdom. Consequently, the other disciples became indignant with them for being so greedy and selfish, since they themselves wanted such positions. This was evident when they were arguing who was the greatest among them, so as to define who holds the principal post of honour among themselves, during Jesus’ regime.
Having observed their ignorance and the emptiness of their self-preoccupation, Jesus Christ took the occasion to educate them on discipleship and leadership, and also to clarify the kind of Kingdom He was going to establish. That His sufferings and death would be the necessary prelude towards its establishment. So, anyone who wishes to have a seat in His Kingdom, must be prepared to follow the same route of suffering (Mark 8:34).
Furthermore, Jesus Christ also instructed His disciples about the demands of His Kingdom. That the power concepts of the ordinary are radically inversed. For Him, leadership means servanthood. Anybody who wants to hold any position of honour or authority over others must be the humble servant of others, and consider himself or herself as a slave of all, and not to seek his or her own gain. This may sound preposterous, but that is part of the demands of Christ’s Kingdom, which He demonstrated when He washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:1-17). This implies that, those at the helm of affairs (political and religious), as well as those seeking for such prestigious positions are the very ones to do the serving and not the other way round, any other contrary view is fake (Matt. 20:26).
In the FIRST READING, prophet Isaiah clearly enunciated the doctrine of expiatory sufferings of a sinless servant. That, out of His infinite love and mercy for humanity and her salvation, Jesus Christ, voluntarily went through an excruciating humiliation and suffering, and offered His life in atonement for her sins, in order to reconcile her back to God. Hence, since Christ has sacrificed His life for humanity to live eternally, those in positions of honour, especially Christians, must be ready to bear any obstacle, trouble and trial they may encounter while discharging their duties as part of sharing in Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-19).
Certainly, there is always a purpose for every difficult situation we may find ourselves in life. Perhaps, God may want to use such situation to teach us some lessons, or He is trying to prepare us for a greater task ahead; or it may be a way of atoning for our sins or that of others. Nevertheless, a constant gaze at the crucifix should always make us realize how little we are asked to suffer for our own salvation, when compared with what Christ suffered in order to redeem us (Hebrew 12:2).
Finally, today’s SECOND READING urges us to always stand steadfast in the faith. For Jesus Christ, the merciful and faithful High Priest, who passed through many trials and sufferings for our sake, yet without sin, has entered Heaven before us, and is preparing a place for us. He is always sympathizing with those who struggle along with moral weakness. So, let us be confident and always approach the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Therefore, as Christians, let us be mindful of the following:
- That leadership means servanthood, that is, those who are seeking for prestigious positions must be ready to lay down their lives in humble service to others, and not the opportunities to show off, enrich themselves, and trample on others.
- That power or authority is like grains of sand, the more we grab it, the more it leaves our hands. So we must not lobby or be ambitious in the acquisition of any prestigious position.
- That suffering for Christ’s sake is a necessary condition for attaining God’s Kingdom (John 16:33). So, we must be ready to bear any obstacle, trouble and trial as part of sharing in Christ’s sufferings.
- Whenever there is a misunderstanding among members of any given society, group, organization, family, etc., their respective leaders should always, with justice, equity and fairness address the issues in a diplomatic manner, just like Christ did among His disciples in today’s gospel.
- We must always endeavor to frequent the sacrament of reconciliation so as to be purified from our sins and be confident to stand before God on the last day (1 John 1:9).
Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may grant you the grace to always endure the challenges and sufferings you encounter in life, and to always render humble service to humanity to the glory of His Holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.