The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home
October 21, 2018 – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:35-45
How many times did Jesus have to remind his closest followers about what was most important for him – and them? In today’s gospel we have a typical example of their misunderstanding. Of all things, they seemed really concerned about their upward mobility in the Kingdom of God. Pope Francis has had to deal with a similar misunderstanding when he reminded bishops about the dangers of what he called “careerism.”
In today’s gospel we meet the sons of thunder, James and John, asking that Jesus reserve for them a very high place in God’s Kingdom. Jesus was willing to do that for them provided they could do what was required for such places. When he told them what this was, they were both surprised and bothered.
For instance, according to Jesus if you wanted to be first, you should be running to the back of the line. You would be looking for people to help and not for people to help you. You get up earlier than everyone to fix breakfast for the family. Or you would stay up late at night making sure the kitchen was clean and the dog fed. In a sense, you would empty yourself of selfishness in order to be filled with God. This was far from easy.
Also in today’s readings we find one of the greatest passages in all Holy Scripture. It’s in the Letter to the Hebrews. Scholars believe that this letter was written to Christian converts who had once been employed in the Jerusalem temple. They were accustomed to rather elaborate religious rituals. When they became Christians, a lot of the fancy externals of religious practice disappeared. They were replaced by a simple meal in which the presence and memory of Jesus was celebrated.
The central idea was that Jesus “lowered” himself to our level. He emptied himself so that we can find easy access to him. This posture was for the sake of service. It opens us, like Jesus, to be vulnerable to others. We offer our assistance, our attention, our care. We go the extra mile with generous love. We become servants.
Generous service is the great sign of our faith. Big-hearted Christian love spreads the faith like nothing else. Real love is down-to-earth. It attends to the needs of others in the family, in the neighborhood, in the whole world. It’s a day-to-day thing. Not showy or elaborate. In fact, it’s usually quite simple and ordinary. A glass of water for a thirsty child. A friendly smile for the check-out staff at the supermarket. This was difficult for the close followers of Jesus to grasp. It remains so today.
©David M. Thomas, ©PhD