29May 29 May, 2013. Wednesday of the Eighth Week

Sir 36:1ff. God’s fidelity to the hopes of Israel; salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.

Mark 10:32ff. Christ’s teaching about rank and privilege in his kingdom.

First Reading: Sirach 36:1, 4-5, 10-17

Have mercy upon us, O God of all,
As you have used us to show your holiness to them, so use them to show your glory to us.
Then they will know, as we have known, that there is no God but you, O Lord.
Hasten the day, and remember the appointed time, and let people recount your mighty deeds.
Let survivors be consumed in the fiery wrath, and may those who harm your people meet destruction.
Crush the heads of hostile rulers who say, “There is no one but ourselves.”
Gather all the tribes of Jacob, and give them their inheritance, as at the beginning.
Have mercy, O Lord, on the people called by your name, on Israel, whom you have named your firstborn.

Gospel: Mark 10:32-45

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.” ServiceJames and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able. Then 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 hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Rank and Relationships within the Church

A certain kind of reverence is healthy, though the propensity of some to claim titles and honours is neither good for themselves nor for others. Wisdom prevents us from being selfish or egotistical for it reminds us at once how much we need to cooperate and to share with others, if we are to receive God’s gifts within the  family of faith.

Sirach insists on the respect we must show towards the gifts of others; and the gospel helps us recognize the bond of family where we reverence others in love and share the best with them. Unlike some others of the Wisdom writers he delighted in the temple liturgy (chs 24 and 50). Liturgy ought to mirror the effect of God’s grace in others. Thus God “will be known to the end of the earth.”

When Jesus encountered opposition from the disciples, he did not change course but continued on his way to Jerusalem. Here, he said, “the Son of Man will be handed over…. But three days later he will rise.” While Jesus’ enemies wanted him dead in order to avoid losing their privileges and wealth, God turns their malice into a saving grace. The sacrificial death of Jesus becomes the cause of our redemption and the core of our church liturgy. “This is my body to be given for you… my blood which will be shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20). We are to reverence not death, but life that has been renewed by the gift of Jesus’ life.

By contrast with this theology of  martyrdom and self-giving for others, the place-seeking of Zebedee’s sons, James and John, seems so petty. How can they intrigue for privileged places in the kingdom, seeking to outrank the others, when Jesus has announced the giving of his life for everyone? Jesus’ answer was very simple, “Whoever aspires to greatness must serve the rest.” This “mind of Jesus” – as pope Francis warmly emphasises, must also be in all of us, and most especially in those entrusted with leadership in our Church.

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