29th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
In today’s Gospel James and John tell Jesus, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you. . . . Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." We can look at that through the eyes of our faith and say, “James and John really didn’t get it at all did they?” “They really didn’t understand what Jesus was all about.” But we have to remember that they were really just trying to secure their place with their leader, their friend.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus was trying to move His disciples away from what was the norm: living in a society where your actions were not based on right or wrong, but rather what brought you honor and praise from others. In essence, your actions fed your ego – it really was all about me. It seems thing have not changed all that much in that respect. Time after time Christ was showing His disciples a new way to be community to each other. Jesus was showing us a new way to live and love each other.
Jesus was trying to open the eyes of all of His followers, including you and me, that servant leadership is the way we are to live our lives. Jesus was telling us that we should focus on others, especially those existing on the margins. He was telling us that we are to focus on community, not on self, not on me. He was telling us that we are to serve our family, neighbors, coworkers, and the people sitting in the pews around us.
Life is not about seeking recognition, not about the honors we collect or are bestowed, but about doing the work of Christ, about doing the will of the Father.
Jesus is again turning what the world teaches us upside down. He tells us that we are to live in the world but not to be of the world. He tells us this place is temporary. Don’t get too comfortable here. Don’t spend all of your time figuring out how to fit in here and how to get ahead in this world. Focus on your eternal life not your worldly life.
Matthew Chapter 16 says, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? In John’s first letter it says, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2: 15-16)
James and John say to Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” That might not be the best way to start a prayer, but it is honest. After all, prayer is a conversation with God. James and John were having a conversation with Jesus who is God.
If you think about it, isn’t that the way we begin a lot of our prayers? We have needs and wants, and we want someone to know them, to recognize our needs and to recognize us, and to answer us. If we do not bring what we want to God – even if what we want is simple - we are not really bringing our complete selves. If we are not bringing our complete selves then we are not fully present and we are really only half-way praying.
Teresa of Avila said, “Prayer is not just spending time with God, it is partly that – but if it ends there, it is fruitless. No, prayer is dynamic. Authentic prayer changes us – unmasks us – strips us – indicates where growth is needed. Authentic prayer never leads to complacency, but needles us – makes us uneasy at times. It leads us to true knowledge, to true humility.”
After James and John make their request of Jesus, He says 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?” (Mark 10: 38-39)
Jesus was asking them if they could accept what was going to happen to Him, and later to them as well. He was asking them if they could accept the evil of the world around them.
The mark of a true Christian is the willingness to actively, not passively, accept that there is evil in the world, and then confront the evil that exists within ourselves and in the world around us. It is the willingness to reject that which the Bible calls “The World.”
We are not responsible for all the evil in the world. We are not responsible in the sense that God will hold us individually accountable for it. We will, however, be held accountable for our response to the evil. God expects us to be mature and adult Christians, God calls us to be like Christ and to love the world enough to save it, not escape from it.
The Foundations in Faith Year B Catechist Manual (p.217) states:
We are redeemed because God loves us and raises us to be in communion with divinity itself. Thus, it is not enough to be incorporated into the Church (CCC 837). The believer must then live that communion. For it is from the heart of divine love that we are saved; therefore, only our loving response from the heart will suffice to open for us the redemption offered. The Second Vatican Council affirmed: “Even though fully incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. [That person remains] indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart.’” (LG 14)
Jesus asks us, “Can you drink the cup that I must drink?” How do we answer? Are we doing what we can to bring about the Kingdom of God here on earth? What kind of followers of Christ are we? Do we stand out from the rest of society? Are we lukewarm about our faith?
God tells us in scripture, “‘The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God’s creation, says this: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16)
As Christians, we are challenged to be different than those who are of this world. We need to be hot, on fire in our faith. We need to be burning with the love of God. You and I need to ask ourselves what do we need to do to be TRUE disciples of Christ.
We all, that is each and every one of us individually, need to be an extraordinary Christian – we already have enough of the ordinary ones.