Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2021: Column on Mark 10:35-45, Cover Art

Dear Believers in the Christ,

Mark 10:35-45 is the gospel passage we pray at Eucharist this weekend. This text holds together many opposing realities. In many ways, it is a summary of faith, holding together death and life, suffering and hope, and prayer and service. It begins with James and John coming to Jesus and asking him to fulfill their desires. They want him to place one of them on his right and the other on his left in glory for all eternity. 

At first glance, we may affirm James and John’s request to Jesus. After all, they had heard Jesus speak of the Kingdom of God. They watched him heal the sick and offer forgiveness to the sinner. They wanted to be in his graces for all eternity. In many ways, I don’t blame them for wanting to be at the side of Jesus, benefiting from all his promises for all eternity. If I am honest with myself, I want the same thing. I suspect we all do. 

We can feel the hesitancy of Jesus in this text when he hears James and John. We can almost feel him cringe. Jesus knows the kind of suffering it will take to get to the Kingdom. Jesus is asking the two men if they are ready to suffer. They will have to let go of all earthly pride and ambition to be placed at the side of Jesus. There will be numerous forms of dying. They have a long way to go to discover how death will transform them. Drinking from the cup of suffering will bring about death, however, Jesus’ death will bring about a new covenant. Jesus is inviting them into a new covenant of heaven and earth. They will have to see for themselves if they are ready to enter such a mystery of dying and rising even in their lives on earth. 

The text continues to hold together the authority of Jesus and his call to serve. Jesus tells the men that if they want to truly find a place in heaven with him, then they will have to act differently on earth. He warns them not to hold authority over the heads of others, but to learn how to serve in ways that will truly change people. This service is another form of dying. It is learning how to acknowledge the gift of people, not to put others down, and how to lift people into the richness of God’s love. The paradox of authority and service becomes another way in which we all are being led to the place of Jesus’ side in heaven. We die to self; we die to false power; we learn then to serve God among the lowly on earth. 

In this liturgical year, which ends in November, the gospels lead us to the end of time and what it takes for us to live the message of Jesus’ dying and rising that we have proclaimed all year. Easter takes its course in leading us all to the Kingdom. We do not live with a sense of entitlement because we believe. We live instead with a spirit of humble service to welcome the Kingdom in our midst here on earth. 

Our rewards are not for us to determine. We leave that to the Father’s will. In the meantime, we learn a gentle way of acknowledging the beauty of all life here on earth. We learn how to lift the poor out of despair and how to welcome the lost one into the center of the community. 

So, what does your heart desire? For what do you ask Jesus? How is Jesus calling you into a deeper commitment here on earth?

Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be slave to 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. 

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor

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