Homily for the twenty-ninth Sunday of the year - Year B - Mk. 10:35-45


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus, and said to him, 'Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.' And he said to them, 'What do you want me to do for you?' And they said to him, 'Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.' But Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?' And they said to him, 'We are able.' And Jesus said to 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 hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.'


"And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.' "





Homily:


"James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus, and said to him, 'Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.' And he said to them, 'What do you want me to do for you?' And they said to him, 'Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.' "


This Sunday's Gospel recounts a dialogue which took place between Jesus and the sons of Zebedee: James and John. These disciples desire, at any price, to sit next to Jesus in Paradise! Is this not a laudable desire? Does this wish not express all their love for the Master of Life? Is this not the greatest expression of their attachment to the Creator of all things? Certainly! And there is no doubt about it: it is the Holy Spirit himself who inspired such a desire in them.


But is this something that one should publicly reveal, as the two disciples did so imprudently? Certainly not. Moreover, these events probably did not take place exactly as described. Indeed, this episode is reported differently by Saint Matthew. According to him, it is the mother of James and John who requests this favor of Jesus for her two sons: "Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something.... 'Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.' " (Mt. 20:20-21)


One can easily understand that the love of a mother for her children would lead her to ask the Lord, in public, for incredible things, such as for her sons to be seated on either side of Christ in Heaven. Making the request in this way is not as shocking, and it somewhat masks the realities behind what is taking place. But Peter, in his catechesis (reported by Saint Mark in his Gospel), was not deceived: he learned, afterwards, what had really taken place, and he presents the request of James and John as being their own.


We can draw two lessons from this event. The first is that it is necessary to be both "wise as serpents, and innocent as doves" (Mt. 10:16): sometimes we must mask the graces received from God, out of prudence, and sometimes they should be manifested, out of innocence. The second lesson is that one can address the Lord Jesus through the intermediary of the Mother of us all, the Virgin Mary, but we can also go directly to Christ, knowing that his blessed Mother is always at his side.


"But Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?' And they said to him, 'We are able.' And Jesus said to 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 hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.' "


The glory of Heaven is something we must ardently wish for, with all our heart, with all our soul, for if we place our hope in this temporal life, filled with miseries and with dangers to our salvation, we are truly to be pitied... But the glory of Heaven is not acquired without effort or work. The glory of the Resurrection is attained through the ignominy of the Passion and the Cross. If we do not wear the crown of thorns in this life, we will never be given the crown of glory in Heaven.


There is no alternative: the Resurrection is attained through the Passion! We Christians were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This means that we were configured to Christ sent by the Father in the Spirit: we were configured to Christ who died and was resurrected, we were made participants in his Passion and his Resurrection, united, by faith, to the sufferings of Christ, and strong, through hope, in the glory of his Resurrection. Already resurrected in hope, we Christians are called to complete in ourselves what is lacking in the Passion of the Lord Jesus.


"To sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared." Jesus speaks of his Passion; so Jesus speaks first as a man, though he is also God and Lord, the equal of the Father. Jesus here makes a point of rendering honor and glory to his Father: it is he who makes the decision to grant such and such a place in the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt. 20:23). For the Father is the first in the Most Holy Trinity: it is he and he alone who determines the order of all things.


"And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.' "


James and John want to be the first at Jesus' side in Heaven. The ten others are indignant at such a request. The Lord orders everything and puts everyone on an equal footing: the master must become the slave, the first must be the last... In this way, everyone is happy. In Heaven, it is the same. Certainly, there is an order among the elect of God and each is in his place, but none of them can express any dissatisfaction at all: each person is perfectly happy in the place which he occupies! It is precisely this same place, this precise order which produces the happiness of the elect of God in Heaven. For, this place, this order, allows the realization of a perfect and structured edifice: the House of God!


May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary accompany us on the way to Heaven, as we do the will of God each day of our life, in a constant response of faith, hope, and charity!



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