Friday, October 16, 2009

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B October 18, 2009

Once when I was working in a Hospital a man was given bad news about his prognosis.

As we talked his children left the room and became involved in a very loud discussion in the hallway about who would get what when their Dad died.

It was heart wrenching to hear.
I shut the door but the damage was done.

All of us have heard people say inappropriate things
All or most of us have said inappropriate things….

It is so important to remember that words are  powerful and once they are spoken there is no way to take them back.

How do we respond when something inappropriate is said ?

What do we say ?
How do we act ?

Frustrated ?
Angry ?
Do we make fun of the person who speaks out of turn?
How do we respond, how should we respond ?

In today's Gospel Jesus responded with love and perseverance.

The passage we heard today follows the third and final prediction of Jesus’ Passion and death on the cross.

Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem to face the cross
As they journeyed to Jerusalem Jesus had just finished pouring out his heart and soul to his closest friends.

He needed James and John to help him carry the terrible burden he would face in Jerusalem.

James and John and Peter were his inner circle (We don’t know where Peter was)

When Jesus finished James and John respond in the most inappropriate way.

They expressed no concern for Jesus and the cross he faced.

They promised no fidelity to their dear friend.
It is almost as if they weren’t listening at all.

When he was finished they directed the conversation toward  their own needs and their own wants.

Can you imagine if you poured out your heart to someone and even told them that you were going to die and they began to ask you for favors?

Or if you told some one that you were going to suffer and they responded, “listen before you suffer can you do this for us?”

It’s hard to fathom how anyone could be so self-absorbed but that seems to be exactly the case when it comes to James and John.

Some biblical scholars believe that Matthew was so ashamed of James and John and the inappropriateness of their comments that in his narrative he puts those words on the mouth of their mother in the hope of not making the apostles look so bad.

What does Jesus do?
What does Jesus say in response to their request.

Rather than yell or take offense he draws them in more deeply into the mystery of his passion and death.

He asks them if they will be willing to suffer like he will suffer
“can you drink from the cup that I will drink?” he asks them.

And he does not promise them places of honor but rather He makes them understand that following Him will not lead them to riches and treasures and power and influence. 

Rather, when we choose to follow Jesus  sooner or later it has to lead to the cross because that’s where Jesus walks and that’s where Jesus goes.

Jesus also used their faux pax  to teach them and the other apostles about greatness…

Greatness is not being able to sit at the right or the left of  leaders or “important people”.

Greatness is not being first in line but rather being last.

Greatness is not about having people do what you want them to do.

Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."


There are a number of things for each of us to consider here.
How do we act when people are inappropriate?
How do we act with people who just don’t get it?

As painful as it must have been Jesus to hear them worry about themselves when he needed them to support Him
Jesus did not shun James and John.

He did not strike out at them.
He forgave them and he walked with them.

Do we walk with people?

Are we willing to work with them even when they don’t get it and they should?

Jesus did not throw up his hands in frustration he remained faithful.

How often have we just walked away from difficult people and difficult situations?

How often have we taken the easy way out and simply not confronted people who were inappropriate especially when the loving thing would have been to place ourselves at their service.

To help them understand how they should have responded appropriately instead of washing out hands of them.

So many people have never been loved enough to have someone correct them.

The Gospel also challenges us to examine what we consider greatness to be.

Sadly James and John wanted power and influence.
The other disciples wanted the same thing.
They were just angry because James and John got to Jesus first.

We should not leave this chapel today without examining our goals in life.

What are we working for ?
Do we want  to serve or to be served  ?

A good indication of where we are headed can be found in how we answer questions like…

How much is service a part of our lives now ?
How much of our time is spent thinking about ourselves ?

You know as I reflected on this Gospel I thought .

If a person graduates from CUA and never went on a food run or never took part in a service initiative or mission trip,
or never participated in project which benefited others…

Then we failed you and you and you failed yourself.

What a different world it would be is we all placed ourselves at the service of each others.

That’s what Jesus did… and that’ why he was on his way to Jerusalem to face the cross.

Would we do the same ?


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