29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 53:10-11; Heb. 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45
In a famous Beatles hit song, “Revolution,” John Lennon writes: “You say you want a revolution. Well, you know, we all want to change the world.” It is safe to say that the task of “changing the world” has always been at the forefront of human consciousness. Books are written, speeches are given and marches stretch across the continents. Today, Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo Movement demand an end to racism and sexual assault. Although our political affiliations and causes may differ, we each have an opinion of what and where change should happen.
And yet, as disciples of Christ, a real and urgent spiritual challenge we face today is striving to make sure that the world doesn’t change us! The framework of the dominant culture rests on position, prestige and power. These are held up as true signs of greatness. James and John, in today’s Gospel, are grappling with this same challenge and failing miserably. They have been with Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry, part of the “inner circle” which was present with Jesus as he taught and healed. They observed Jesus in his interactions with the status-seeking, power-hungry hierarchies of the Jewish and Roman leaders. Yet, they ask Jesus for the seats of respect and honor when he comes into his glory. We can certainly call them fishermen who have “missed the boat.” How fortunate they, and we, are; the writer of Hebrews reminds us, that in Jesus we have” one who understands our weaknesses!“
Where does greatness lie? For Jesus it is always linked to service, sacrifice and suffering. How foolish the request of James and John is when contrasted with the servant Isaiah describes as full of humility and willingness to endure suffering. The questioning of James and John about “drinking the cup” that Jesus will drink is really calling them to deeper reflection on what discipleship means. This call extends to us, as well. Can we “drink the cup” so that we may break down boundaries instead of building up walls? Are we willing to “drink the cup” so that we might see the importance of making connections rather than simply having connections? Will we “drink the cup” that makes it possible to choose cooperation over competition?
Today’s readings remind us that the call to discipleship is an invitation to deeper humility, vulnerability and solidarity with others. Who or what is shaping our understanding of what discipleship is really about?
God, grant us the courage to resist being changed by the world as we seek to be instruments of change. May our lives reflect the “greatness” you modeled: service, humility and love.
Sister Diane Forrest, O.P.