21Oct 21 October. 29th Sunday

1st Reading: Isaiah (53:10-11)

God’s faithful Servant bears our sins and sorrow; but he will prevail

It was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 33)

R.: Lord, may your mercy be upon us, as we place our trust in you

The word of the Lord is faithful
and all his works to be trusted.
The Lord loves justice and right
and fills the earth with his love. (R./)

The Lord looks on those who revere him,
on those who hope in his love.
to rescue their souls from death,
to keep them alive in famine. (R./)

Our soul is waiting for the Lord.
The Lord is our help and our shield.
May your love be upon us, O Lord,
as we place all our hope in you. (R./)

2nd Reading: Hebrews (4:14-16)

He knows us completely, so all may approach our high priest, Jesus

Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Gospel: Mark (10:35-45)

Jesus overturns all artificial ranking systems; whoever serves others is greatest

(or shorter version: Mark 10:42-45)

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said, “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.

Jesus called his disciples 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 has come not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”



[José Antonio Pagola]

While they’re going up to Jerusalem, Jesus often talks about the painful destiny awaiting him in the capital. His disciples don’t understand him but start arguing about the top seats. James and John, among the first disciples, come up to ask him directly about one day sitting «one at your right hand and the other at your left». It is a discouraging question. Jesus says: «You do not know what you are asking». No one in the group seems to understand that closely following him, working with him on his project, will be a path not of power and greatness, but of sacrifice and cross. Meanwhile, when the other ten find out about James’ and John’s insolence, they get mad. The group is more agitated than ever, divided by Ambition. Jesus gets them all together to make his thinking clear.

Above all he lays out what happens among the peoples in the Roman Empire. Everyone knows the abuses of Antipas and the Herodian families in Galilee. Jesus sums it up this way: those recognized as leaders use their power to «lord it over» the peoples, and the great ones do nothing but «make their authority felt» over their subjects. Jesus couldn’t be more emphatic: «Among you, none of that».

He doesn’t want to see anything like that among his own: «Anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave of all». In his community there’s no place for power that oppresses, only for service that helps. Jesus doesn’t want leaders seated on his right and left, but servants like him who give their lives for the rest.

Jesus makes clear that his Church isn’t built on the imposition of those from above, but on the service of those who are seated below. No hierarchy of any kind based on honour or domination fits is in his mind… nor methods and strategies of power. It’s service that builds up Jesus’ Church. He sees this as so important that he offers himself as an example: he hasn’t come to the world to lord it over others, but «to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many». Jesus doesn’t want triumphalism in the Church, but real service … to do one’s utmost for the weakest and for those most in need.

This message isn’t just for the leaders. Whatever our tasks and responsibilities, we all need to commit ourselves more to the service of his project. In the Church we don’t need imitators of James and John, but faithful followers of Jesus. Those who want to be important need to get to work and collaborate.

Who is willing to serve</h?3>
The theme of the willing servant fits well with the idea of mission. The ideal missionary is so focussed upon the good of the people whom they serve that they plan both their activities and their life-style to match the peoples’ real needs. There is a huge effort of adaptation and inculturation involved, so that the Gospel can resonate with the local people. This goes well beyond the initial need to learn the local language and the best symbols to use, so that the message of Jesus can be understood and loved.

In our world, where most of our media celebrities seem to bristle with self-assertion Jesus’ call to total service seems unrealistic, and, one might think, unlikely to succeed. But dedication to the service of others is fundamental to Christian discipleship. Jesus came “not to be served, but to serve” and this example must be a guiding light for his followers. He went about doing good (cf. Acts 10:38), bringing justice, healing, forgiveness and kindness. So those who believe in him are challenged to give themselves, their talents and their time, to the service of others, convinced that this is the right way to live. The acted parable of the foot-washing at the Last Supper gives out the same message.

What do we learn from our Lord’s life and actions? He wanted always to do the Father’s will, and this thought stayed with him, even when it led to suffering and a cruel death. As a boy he was “about the Father’s business”, and he made it the business of his whole life. This prompts us too, with an active sense of duty, and a personal dedication to God’s will for us. Normally, we discover our duty and God’s will for us, not in world-changing plans or in heroic ideals but in the ordinary tasks of each day. At home or in the office, or the school or other workplace, or wherever the activity of the moment calls us, we try to be aware of duty and a sense of dedication. Whenever we work in a slipshod manner, of fail to offer the needed helping hand, we fall below our personal call to service. What a change it would make, if all Christians returned to this spirit, in their daily life. We need to be reminded that in doing good for others we are imitating the serving Christ and building up the kingdom of God on earth.

It is tempting to be selfish with our time and energy. There are so many plausible excuses for holding back from the work that needs to be done. How easy to decide to live just for ourselves and let society fend for itself. But the Lord calls us to face the question, “What can I do for my community?” rather than “What can my community do for me?” It is a basic lesson that we have to keep on learning throughout our lives. James and John, in today’s Gospel, may reflect how we relate to God. We set to praying in earnest whenever we want something for ourselves. Jesus answers them with a question of his own, to suggest that they need to change their priorities. The best request we can make to God is this, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10.) And God’s will is that we live our life in the imitation of Christ his Son, and give ourselves in service to others. The death of Jesus on the cross was simply the final expression of that spirit of service which characterised his whole life. Every day he died to himself, because he lived “not to be served, but to serve.” His life was a daily emptying of self (Phil 2:7), a self-emptying which was only complete when he gave his last breath on the cross The complete missionary!

What to pray for

Often in life we don’t get exactly what we want. From childhood we begin to learn the lesson that others do not automatically give in to our wishes. In adolescence we discover that our peers are not mirror images of ourselves and do not always respond to us as we would hope. In adulthood we learn the delicate art of compromise when what we want and what others want come into conflict. We also find that in our relationship with God our prayers are not always answered, even when we focus not on ourselves but on others and their well-being. The experience of unanswered prayer can be a real challenge to our faith.

James and John in today’s gospel come to Jesus with a selfish request. They ask him, ‘allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ Mark has earlier shown James and John together on the mount of transfiguration, along with Peter. There they had experienced Jesus in his glory, flanked by Moses and Elijah. The two brothers understood this experience as anticipating a glorious future, and in that ecstatic future they wanted the places occupied by Moses and Elijah. Mark emphasizes the inappropriateness of this request of James and John by placing it immediately after the third announcement by Jesus of his coming passion and death, ‘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—’ (Mk 10:33-34). As Jesus declares that he is shortly to be humbled, James and John ask Jesus that they be exalted. Here is a prayer that has far too much of ‘self’ in it. It is not a prayer that Jesus can respond to. Sometimes, our own prayers can have a lot of ‘self’ in them, even when they are prayers for others. One dimension of our growing up into the person of Jesus is learning to pray as he prays, entering into his ongoing prayer to the Father. It is only the Holy Spirit who can enable our prayer to harmonize with that of the risen Lord. As Paul states in his letter to the Galatians, ‘God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba” Father!’ (Gal 4:6). In his letter to the Romans he comments that ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words’ (Rom 8:26). Our prayer will be a sharing in Jesus’ own prayer when it is shaped by the inarticulate sighs of the Spirit deep within us.

In response to the brothers’ request, Jesus asks them a question, ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I must be baptized?’ This is later echoed in his own prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want’ (Mk 14:36). The very cup that Jesus invites James and John to drink, he hesitated to drink himself. Yet, he went on to pray his more fundamental prayer, ‘Not what I want, but what you want.’ Jesus does not ask his disciples anything he is not prepared to do himself. As today’s 2nd Reading remarks, we have a high priest ‘who has been tempted in every way that we are.’ What he says to James and John is addressed to us all. Are we prepared to commit ourselves to his servant way, even to the way of the cross, the way of self-giving. The sacraments reinforce this invitation. At baptism we are baptized into Jesus’ servant way and when we celebrate Eucharist we renew our commitment to that way.

Salt and light

Jesus uses the simple examples of salt and light to illustrate the effect of a Christian life as a witness to him and to his message.

In many Irish farms in times past, people used to kill a pig a few times a year. As many had no fridges or freezers in those days, old tea chests were used to store the sides of bacon. The secret was to pack the bacon as tightly as possible, with a whole sack of salt, into the tea chest. With a large family, the bacon lasted for several weeks before it was all eaten. Because of the salt, the bacon remained fresh, and none of it was wasted. The salt preserved the bacon, and that is what I think of when I hear Jesus saying that we are the salt of the earth. We are meant to be preservers of goodness and life within the wider community. Salt preserves, and it also gives taste. Heart specialists may prefer if it were removed from all dining-room tables, but salt remains one of the kitchen essentials. Salt does make a difference to food. That is why Jesus uses the image to stress the effect of the Christian within the community. The witness of Christian living is supposed to make a difference.

We understand many things because we know the opposites. If there was darkness, we could not appreciate the light. The same goes for hot and cold, health and sickness, life and death. Darkness can be more than the absence of light. There are people living in darkness because they are blind, or because they are in a deep hole of depression. The Christian is called to be a light. It is like someone carrying a lantern, leading others along a dark tunnel. Every flying object is attracted to the light, as we know when we leave a window open, and the lights are on within the house. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. The role of the Christian is to light that candle. We cannot hope to brighten up the whole world, but one candle in a dark room transforms the whole room. I have known individuals who were like that candle within the room of my surroundings.

Today’s gospel calls us to action. If we are to be the salt of the earth, then we must not lose our flavour. We must try to be effective Christians. Christianity requires action. “By this will all people know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus tells us that we should let our light shine before people so that they will know that we are children of the Father. If God has children living here on earth, then surely their presence should make an enormous difference: shat a difference his Son, Jesus Christ, made..

We need to personalise the gospel as we read it. The words of today’s gospel are meant for us. Right here, right now we have the salt and the light. Like a jigsaw, where each part is needed to complete the picture, each one of us needs to t respond to the call that our Lord has issued today. Letting your light shine before others is not about showing off, or preaching to others, and telling them what to do. Your life is your greatest sermon. If you were deaf and dumb, you could still speak loudly about Jesus and his message. In a good sense, I will make a difference if I am different. Jesus was a sign of contradiction to this world. His values were different, and his life was different. That is why so many people followed him. If I went to live in a cave in the mountains, and lived with the Lord, there would be a pathway up the mountainside within a few years. Christianity is about attracting rather than about promoting.

It is a wonderful grace to have a plan and purpose for our life; to have a map that charts the course, to have guidelines to follow. Jesus gives a clear programme for living. He lived it himself, and asked us to live as he lived. By ourselves, of course, that is impossible, and Jesus knows that only too well. That is why he sent his Spirit, so that we could live in the power of that Spirit. Just as he was led by the Spirit, so can we. The X-factor in all of this is my declared willingness to accept that mandate. Again and again, I am called to repeat my “yes” to his call. Every part of the gospel calls for a response from me. Today is just another of those days.

This story is told about John Ruskin, the 18th century English writer, when he was quite old. He was visiting with a friend, and he was standing looking out the front window of the house. It was nighttime, and the lamplighter was lighting the street lamps. From the window one could see only the lamps that were being lit, and the light the lamplighter was carrying from one lamp to another. The lamplighter himself could not be seen. Ruskin remarked that the lamplighter was a good example of the genuine Christian. His way was clearly lit by the lights he lit, and the light he kept burning, even though he himself may not be known or seen. In today’s gospel, Jesus said that he was the light that had come into the world. Today, he tells us that we are to become that light for others.

Machtnamh: Ullamh chun freastail (Willing to serve)

Is furas bheith leithleasach len ár gcuid ama is ár gcuid spleodrachta. Is iomaí leath-scéal a bhíonn ann chun cúl a thabhairt do ghnothaí gan réiteach. Is fusa go mór bheith sásta len ár gcuid féin agus gan bacaint le gnóthaí nach dár ngnó iad.  Féách cé chomh héasca is atá sé cinneadh a dhéanamh maireachtáil ar ár son féin amháin agus ligean don saol atá ag teacht a chuid fabhbanna a réiteach. Ach iarrann an Tiarna orainn aghaidh a thabhairt ar an fhabhd. “Cad is féidir liom a dhéanamh ar son mo phobail?” seachas “Cad is féidir le mo phobal a dhéanamh ar mio shonsa?” Is ceist bhunúsach í nach mór dúinn staidéar a dhéanamh air fad is beo dúinn. D’fhéadfadh Séamas agus Eoin i Soiscéal an lae inniu, léiriú a dhéanamh ar an gcaoi a gcloífimid le Dia. Nuair atá rud éigin dá lorg againn dúinn féin cuirimidne chun urnaí le fonn. Mar fhreagra féach mar a caitheann Íosa ceist dá chuid féin chuchu, ag tabhairt le tuiscint dóibh go bhfuil gá lena meon a dhíriú sa treo ceart osnádúrthe. Is é seo an t-iarratas is fearr le Dia: “Déantar d ar talamh mar a déanatar ar neamh” (Mt 6:10). Agus is é toil Dé go mairimist ár lorg Íosa Dé, dár dtabhairt féin ag freastail ar dhaoine eile

One Response

  1. Pádraig McCarthy

    On this World Mission Sunday, it may seem difficult to speak with enthusiasm for the mission of a church which seems beset by bad and tragic news stories on all sides. How can one promote a church, however venerable its past, which seems to be dying away while we are powerless to find any remedy? Yes, the stories of abuse and injustice surround us, and seem to threaten to sweep us away like a tsunami.

    But we are a “catholic” church – a global, universal church. The core of our faith involves looking candidly at total failure – the death of Jesus on the cross, as we display in our gatherings – and yet, in that darkness, we see new life and hope, healing and peace and love.

    Where do we find signs of that hope? The picture in Ireland could be discouraging, but worldwide growth continues. Historian Philip Jenkins (raised Catholic, now Episcopalian) recounts a story we rarely hear: the continued dynamic growth of the Catholic church. Read what he says:
    His global and historical approach in “The Lost History of Christianity” (Lion 2008) shakes us out of a view of Christianity as a Western faith of the Northern hemisphere. We tend to see Western Europe as the real home of Christianity. For a thousand years, however, the largest and most influential churches lay to the east of Rome, covering the world from China to North Africa, and thrived in the Middle East. He also deals with another side in “The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity” (OUP Third Edition 2011), writing of the expansion of Christianity in the Global South.

    A summary of some Catholic church statistics from the Annuario Pontificio 2018 (2400 pages!) can be found from Agenzia Fides: search for
    Special Dossier Catholic Church statistics 2018

    While Christianity is in current decline in Europe, including Ireland, the wider view is essential. We have no guarantee that we will not meet the same fate as overtook the church as described in The Lost History of Christianity, we have the grace of a universal and more catholic body. We can work for unity with other Christian churches and communions, and look to serve the world so much in need of light in the darkness.

    Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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