In his excellent homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Father Hanly helps us get a feel for what Jesus must have felt on his final journey to Jerusalem.
Readings for Mass
First Reading: Isaiah 53:10-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Second Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16
Gospel: Mark 10:35-45 or 10:42-45
Recording of Homily
Transcript of Homily
As we come to the end of the church’s liturgical year, this gospel is one of the central gospels and it’s very important to, not only just understand the meaning of it, but also to try to penetrate the mysteries of it which are always difficult.
But, most of all, it’s to be one with Jesus and get a feel for what he must have felt as he walked the way from the northern part of Israel, all the way down on his final journey to go to Jerusalem.
So I’m going to read first the third prediction of the Passion, which comes in Mark’s gospel immediately before the gospel that you’ve just read. But it sets the tone and it gives you a feel of what follows. It goes like this.
“They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him.
‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.’”
And now you can see the mood that Jesus must have been in at this time. He’s trying to tell his disciples that they’re not on a triumphal path to some great victory over the Romans, or whatever it is, of the immediacy of God entering into their history and changing it all in the changing of a flash of lightning.
He is saying, “I’m going there because it’s my Father’s will that I die, but I will rise again.”
And so the gospel says, you notice, “He went ahead of them.” He would go ahead of them and they would walk behind him, because none of them wanted to go up to Jerusalem if the things that he said were going to happen were really going to happen.
And so they were amazed at this sudden change of what the Messiah has come to do, if they could understand it, but they couldn’t really understand it. And they were afraid, because it made them doubt and it made them feel apart from him, because he alone knew the dreadful end of this journey and what the outcome would be.
And so Jesus must have been very, very alone, and looking for the consolation of the men he loved most, which were especially the twelve, the twelve disciples.
And given this kind of mood, and he was thinking of death, two of them come up to him, two of his very favourites, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Out of the three favourites, these were two of them.
And instead of consoling him, instead of asking him what he really meant, the gospel tells us today, “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” This is like children, you see, children asking their father, “Please, Daddy, do something for us that we really, really want. And if you love us, you will give it to us.”
And then Jesus, very patiently, replied, “What are you asking for?”
And then, suddenly, they answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in the great triumph of the Kingdom,” which they kind of feel is about to come upon them.
And Jesus is so disappointed, because they are thinking of power and glory and praise and all these great, wonderful things, and he is thinking of his own death.
And so he says to them, “Can you drink the cup that I must drink?” The cup is a symbol all through the Old Testament, usually given to the Prophets when their destiny is told to them by God. And that destiny involves suffering and pain, and so it is the cup of bitterness.
And then he says, “Can you be baptised with the baptism that I will be baptised in Jerusalem?”
We think of a little child being baptized, a new life being baptized. But the word baptism means “to be immersed in water.” And the whole story of baptism is we are immersed and drowned in the waters that we might die to our old lives and be brought up out of the water to live to the new life. And so Jesus knows that he is going to be baptized means that he must die but in three days he will rise again.
They say, “We can drink of the cup and we can be baptised with the baptism,” not understanding at all what they are talking about.
But Jesus softens, and he looks at them, and he knows in the future they will return, and he says to them, “Yes, someday, you will have to drink the cup, and, someday, you will be baptised in this kind of baptism. But to give you places in heaven, that is not for me to talk about, that is for the Father. It is the prerogative of the Father to speak of rewards, to speak of the things that you are crying out for so much.”
And he says to them…He doesn’t say anything to them, he just sits and stops and talks with them in kind of a silent understanding.
But the other disciples, the other disciples hear about it, and they protest. Why do they protest? They are jealous. They, too, want the first places at the table. They, too, want to be honoured. They, too, want power. They, too, are in the competition game. They want to be winners and not losers, finally. They have been losing their whole life and now this man is going to make them winners.
And Jesus listens to them squabbling. These are the men that he’s going to found the Kingdom of God? These are the men that want the authority of world. You see, in this life, you do not rise high unless you want power, unless you are somewhat arrogant and forceful. It’s a world in which the authority of the world is based on might and power. And Jesus is offering the authority of God.
And what is the authority of God? The authority of God is not in domination. It is not in winning. The authority of God is in loving. It is in silence. It is in quietness. It is in accompaniment, a quiet presence. It is in listening. It is in caring. It is in accepting. It is learning how to love the way the Father loves, because the Father is a giver and not a taker. It is learning how to love the way Jesus loves, so great that he will lay his life down for his people.
And this great mystery, that we take so readily today into our own lives, is not understood, or not heard, by the Apostles. And so it is Jesus comes together and he explains it to them. And he explains it to them in these words.
Jesus summoned them to himself and then he said to them,
“My little children,
you know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
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.”
Why would Jesus follow this way? Because it’s the way of his Father. There’s an old saying, “Like father, like son”. In this situation, the Son is like the Father. The Father is the one that we must understand. He is a giver, a lover, who cares for us.
“Where is God?” people say. God is wherever you want Him to be. But He comes in silence, and in quietude, and in love, and in caring. And if you listen and listen, you can hear His word.
And if you go out and find the people who need help and who need this kind of love, to be understood, to be cared for, to be respected, to be healed and to be saved, there is where you will find the authority of God.
So on this Missionary Sunday, sometimes we think it is that we are sent out to kind of convince the whole world that we are right and they are wrong, that we have the truth and they don’t. This is very far, not from the Apostles’ thoughts, but from the thoughts of God.
We are sent into this world to listen and to heal, to care and to reach out. We are, in a word, we are sent into this world to learn how to love, not as men love, to learn how to love as God loves.
And God gives His only begotten Son that he should offer his life that we might understand that God’s love is so great that He gives everything into our hands.
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This homily was delivered on 18th October 2009.
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