29th Sunday (B)

“The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.”

The Gospel speaks about the contrast that exists between way of the world and the way of Jesus. The society of today is looking at greatness as material prosperity, power, position, prestige, name and fame. They use any means to achieve their end even exploiting others without any quam of conscience. The more they have the more they want to accumulate and there is no end to the greed for wealth, money, power and position. It is known from the lives of various people that a prosperous and glamorous life may not bring lasting peace, joy and happiness, as they are temporary. It is a fact that in life there are joys and sorrows, sufferings and pleasures, success and failures, but the way we accept these realities and have a proactive response would make a difference in our life.

Christ had a completely different understanding of authority. He saw it as an opportunity to serve, to promote good of others, rather than to promote one’s own glory and honor. He said: “look at the pagan rulers. See how they lord it over their subjects. It must not be like that among you. The one in authority must be the one who serves.” Surely this is the most revolutionary thing ever said about authority.
Jesus was trying to educate his followers that He has come into this world to give his life as a ransom for many, which is to be achieved by his passion and death on the cross. First time after the transfiguration Jesus talked about it and peter immediately retorted, “Let it not happen to you.” After the second prediction, the apostles were arguing over which of them was the most important. Now after the third prediction, James and John became more ambitious and ask for a favor from their master. He said to them, “What is it that you want me to do for you?” The answer is “Allow us to sit one on your right and the other on your left in your glory.”

Jesus tried to remind James and John of the sacrifices and sufferings associated with their effort to reach his abode. He tells them that in his kingdom, it is not about sitting. It’s about standing! Can you? Will you? Stand by me? Stand for me? Stand for what I am all about? They expressed their willingness to undertake any sort of adventures and undergo any amount of sufferings to reach where Jesus resides. Jesus knew their good intention in spite of the selfish spirit that instigated them. Therefore he clarified them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” The other ten disciples who watched this whole episode in dismay were not in any way superior to these two Zebedee brothers. Their fuming jealousy found its expression in the form of indignation.

Jesus, knowing full well their ignorance and inability to grasp of the realities of life, tells them that anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. Here Jesus is talking about the spirit and the attitude that we should possess. The commandment is “to love one another as I have loved you.” So love of God is the power and the force that permeates in all our words and actions.

That radical teaching of Jesus is a deep spirituality to live by: “the more power I have, the more respect I must show; the more service I must give; the more aware of the ‘small people’ in life I must be!” This is to be acknowledged and appreciated in pope Francis, as he speaks out against global corruption, and speaks up for the refugees and the homeless!! He is people oriented than self oriented and so he goes out of his way to extend the love and compassion of Jesus to the poor, marginalized, the differently abled and the like just as Jesus went about doing good.

Jesus always notices the child; he notices the sinful woman; he notices the small man up a tree; he notices the beggar and the cripple; he notices the sinner; he notices the bereaved; he notices the stray – and the lost, he notices you and me and we are significant and important to him. And he says: “come to me! Come to me all you who labor, and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. For I am gentle and humble of heart, and I will give rest for your souls!! ”

James and John also converted from being greedy and selfish in the Gospel today to serve Jesus, each in his own way drinking the cup of Jesus’ Passion and undergoing the baptism of Jesus’ Passion. James gave his life in Jerusalem for Jesus and John looked after Mary taking her to safety in Ephesus in what we now call Turkey when Jerusalem became too unsafe due to persecutions of Christians. John would continue to give of himself for Jesus by writing one of our four Gospels, New Testament letters and the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.

The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. When we return love for hatred, when we are misunderstood and spoken against, when we sacrifice our time and energy to perform thankless, hidden acts of love, we share in Jesus’ suffering. What could cause more pain than to love so deeply, and not be loved in return? Yes our reward is in heaven and we need to follow the path of our master to gain that eternal treasure, prepared for us.