Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
If a Christian does not look different than those who are worldly, then what is the point in being a Christian? What good does it serve to be Christian by name? To what purpose then, was the death of Jesus Christ?
I have titled this homily, “But It shall not be so among you.” Today’s gospel reading reveals the internal power struggle among Jesus’ disciples. James and John beat the other disciples in asking Jesus if in his Glory they could sit one at his right and the other at his left. Mark tells us that when the other disciples heard this, they got indignant at James and John. Perhaps, this may have been because each of them either nurtured the same ambition or because they felt upstaged by the two brothers. Either way, Jesus’ response swift and categorical. “But it shall not be so among you” (Mk 10: 43).
What shall not be among Jesus followers? Here are three things that shall not be among us.
1. “Making God as Small as our Imagination.” Who did James and John imagine Jesus to be? What kind of a God was Jesus’ God? What did the James and John imagine Jesus’ ministry to be all about? Even after Jesus had mentioned his suffering and death three times prior to their bizarre request, James and John had no idea that Jesus’ destiny indeed was the cross! For some reason, they could only imagine the “Glory!” Why point the finger at James and John? Don’t we do the same? How often we think that God is like us! One time I prayed addressing God as Father and Mother, Creator and Friend. Someone took me to task because he said that God is male and that why Jesus taught us to call God, “Father!” I tried to reason with him by saying that the book of Genesis teaches us that God made man and woman in God’s image and likeness; that God is beyond gender and sexuality. But he was having none of it. He wrote to the Archbishop complaining about my erroneous teachings. How often we think that God has the same skin color as mine, or that God speaks the same language as me, for some reason loves our nation more than any other, and that God belong to the same political party as mine. How often we think that God is like us! Every time we do this, we act like James and John. Jesus says to us, “This shall not be so among you!”
2. “Making God work according to our plans.” James and John prefaced the favor they were asking of Jesus with this statement, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” I must admit, I am as guilty as James and John. Perhaps, all of us are. So many times I want things to go the way I want rather than the way the gospel shows. I get impatient, I get frustrated, I give into despair, I get hopeless. Then I come to prayer and say exactly what James and John said, “Jesus, I want you to do whatever I ask you to do!” The hardest aspect of discipleship is to learn to get off the driving seat and let Christ have the steering wheel. It is so hard to let God be God. Jesus says to us, “This shall not be so among you!”
3. “Clamoring for power, influence, and authority.” What was the problem among the disciples? More than James and John’s question, it is Jesus’ response to them that gives us an insight into the problem. The problem was about power, authority, honor, and privilege. Jesus made their question a teaching moment. He said, “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all” (Mk 10: 44). Elections are upcoming, and I have not heard anybody use these words, yet. At this moment there is tremendous power struggle in the Church. There are those who want Pope Francis gone! If we look at our work places, perhaps the same struggles exist. Even families are not free from such struggles. Jesus says to us, “This shall not be so among you!”
Today’s gospel reading ends with the words, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10 45). If you would like to be a disciple, go home, go to your work place, to to your neighborhood, and be the servant of all!
- Fr. Satish Joseph