October 17, 2021 This homily is posted but not delivered as I will be serving a Maronite Community this weekend.
Isaiah 53, 10-11 + Psalm 33 + Hebrews 4, 14-16 + Mark 10, 35-45
Whenever this incident is told in the proclamation of the Gospel, I am always struck by the contrast suggested to us by these two ambitious and self-serving disciples who want to be on the left and right of Jesus. Their denial and almost deliberate refusal to even imagine what Jesus has been saying to them is to their shame as we are left to wonder where they were and how it is that two criminals end up to the right and left of Jesus when he enters into the presence of the Father.
The whole incident springs out of a question that must have been running through their minds as they listened to Jesus speak three times of what was to become of him. It is not so much that they reject suffering because they do claim that they can and will drink the same cup the Jesus drinks. It is that they think they will get something out of it, and that’s the question running through their heads, and it is a question that still lurks in all our minds when there is a decision to be made. “What am I going to get out of it?”
To whatever extent that question runs through our minds at any time or with any decision, we know we are far from understanding what God asks of us. Charitable contributions measured as a tax deduction is perfect example. When something is given, it can’t be done to get thanks, recognition, or get something in return. That’s called a “bribe”. The consequence of letting this thinking influence or control brings a terrible result in any family, community, or church. We see it in the other disciples today: indignation. “They became indignant at James and John” says the text. That indignation is destructive of unity, destroys trust, and erodes respect.
There is plenty of indignation going around in this world today. It is the consequence of corruption that leads to anger and violence, and that corruption is nothing more than a What am I going to get out of it mentality easily found in places of unrest where injustice is ignored and grows like a deadly cancer in the life of a society. What Jesus has revealed over and over again is that service and sacrifice must spring out of love, not ambition or expectation of some reward. We do not fast to lose weight. We do not fast to get a ticket to heaven. We fast to experience solidarity with the hungry of this world and remind ourselves that we are not self-sufficient. Parents who sit at the side of a sick child do not sit there with the hope that this child will get well and take care of them someday. They sit there and suffer because of love.
Jesus did not suffer death to get something for himself. He already had it all and left it behind because of the Father’s love. He suffered to show us obedience. He suffered because we suffer, and he did not want us to suffer alone. He speaks to us, a sometimes-indignant people who spend too much time looking at what others have, and invites us once more to serve not to be served, to love not be loved, and find our greatness in our care for one another.