Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 17, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Is 53:10-11 / Ps 33 / Heb 4:14-16 / Mk 10:35-45
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about three sons, who left home, went out on their own, and prospered. Later, when they were reunited, they discussed the gifts they had been able to give to their elderly mother.
The first one said, “I built a big house for our mother.”
The second one said, “I sent her a Mercedes with a driver.”
The third smiled and said, “I’ve got you both bested. Remember how Mom enjoyed reading the Bible? You know she can’t see very well, so I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites the entire Bible. It took elders in the church twelve years to teach him. He is one of a kind. Mom just has to name chapter and verse, and the parrot recites it.”
Soon thereafter, the mother sent a letter to each son.
To the first, she wrote, “The house you built is so huge, I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house.”
To the second she wrote, “I am too old to travel. I stay at home most of the time, so I rarely use the Mercedes, and the driver is very rude.”
To the third she wrote, “You have the good sense to know what your mother likes: the chicken was delicious.”
Twelve years of training a parrot that ended up on a plate.
Most of us want to offer the best to the Lord, sometimes without really understanding what Jesus wants from us. Sometimes when we offer something to the Lord, we ask a favor in return.
As Jesus warned of His impending suffering in Jerusalem, two of His apostles foresaw their wonderful place in the kingdom of God. They asked the Lord to place them to the right and to the left of His throne. It is very clear that at this time, the two brothers, James and John, did not yet understand the life they were following. Personal interest and human need for praise still reigned in their lives.
When the other apostles learned that James and John wanted to secure their own place in heaven, they were resentful and jealous of them. Like James and John, they also wanted to secure their power and honor in the kingdom of God.
Christ used this event as an opportunity to remind the apostles that Christian life is a life of service, not of pride. Jesus Himself came into the world, not to be admired and served by men, but to humble Himself and serve. A true disciple of Christ is one who is willing to drink the cup of pain. In the eyes of God, the greatest and most honorable is he who is willing to serve and sacrifice for his brothers and sisters.
Most of us resemble James and John in this scenario. We also aspire to be successful: at work, in business, in government, or even in church. What if we were talking about God’s kingdom?
It is not bad if we have a mission in life. Jesus Himself longed for God’s will to be done throughout the world, and He did everything to achieve this dream for mankind. However, the person who aspires to prosperity should not think only of his personal interests, but for the good of all, especially the poor and the neglected. Those who aspire to be rich and powerful should be careful not to become greedy and selfish. As the ancients said, power and wealth are good servants but not good masters.
A Christian should not be envious of the wealth and power of others. Why? It is a fact of life that because of jealousy some people hurt, cheat, or even kill one another. Envy has no place in God’s society, because each of us is called to work together and share. Wealth and power are just two of the graces that the Lord gives to people. More important are the gifts of good family, friendships, physical health, mental health, education, faith, work, etc. If we have these, we should be thankful to God. We know that true happiness is ours only when we have a good relationship with our Lord and our neighbor.
Let us reflect on the graces we each have been given and how best they might be used in the service of our brothers and sisters, especially those closest to us. God did not give them to us to just sit there and rust. He expects them to be used to build the body of Christ through His vision and our mission. Without vision, our life is just an illusion and without mission, our life is just selfishness and ambition.
We don’t need to wait to be asked. God expects us to take the initiative to see a need and respond to it. We are never too young or too old to do God’s work. Now is the time for each of us. God calls us now to follow Him, whether we are ready or not. If we are to be followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must be like Him who came not to be served, but to serve.