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


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"James and John, the sons of Zeb'edee, came forward to him, 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 Zeb'edee, came forward to him, 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 demand by the sons of Zeb'edee always surprises us, just as it caused trouble among the group of indignant disciples! How could those whom the Lord called to the humility of his Way of the Cross make such a request? Indeed, this was something which disconcerted all the true disciples of the dead and risen Christ! Is not the Christian life first a life of humility and of renouncement, in order to follow Christ: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mk. 8:34)? Yes, certainly. But, don't forget that the Lord had said before: "Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand?" (Mk. 4:21) and "You are the light of the world." (Mt. 5:14)


"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.»"


Does Jesus reproach the sons of Zeb'edee, James and John? Not at all. But he faces them with the reality of their demand: "You do not know what you are asking." James and John didn't know what they were asking: they had only a weak intuition of it, the kind of intuition Christians have when the Spirit of God speaks to them internally. Indeed, when the Spirit of God acts in us, his action is perceptible only by faith, and it is therefore by the fine tip of the soul that we are able to catch sight of this divine light which comes to illuminate us and to instruct us on the conduct of our lives. We don't know what the Spirit is saying to us, our intelligence cannot understand what he wants, but our heart, through faith, grasps this intuition which allows us to say: "Yes, that is what God wants me to do!" And that's why, like the sons of Zeb'edee, we can say with complete assurance: "Yes, we are able." Or also: "Yes, the Power of God is in us, because his Spirit spoke to us!"


"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.»"


Behold, Jesus announces us a thing of which he is not the Master! Astonishing announcement, mysterious surprise! He, the Lord of the Universe and the Master of all things states that he doesn't have the power of assigning such or such a place to his two disciples! What is the reason for this? Saint Matthew gives us a brief explanation when, mentioning the same episode, he relates these words of the Lord: "To sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." (Mt. 20:23) Thus, Jesus recognizes that this assignment of places belongs to his Father. In other words, the Father does not assign places of choice and of honour to the disciples of his Son except insofar as Jesus, the Son of God, stands aside and humbles himself before him, his Father.


But, as we know, Christ and the Church are one. If therefore Jesus lowers himself so that the Church is elevated, this means that the entire life of Christians must be thus: only by lowering ourselves and by humility can we reach the glory of Heaven. That is why Jesus affirms thereafter: "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.»"


Jesus is going to come in us in the course of this Eucharist. The one who is the Head of the Body, the Church, comes to us like a servant so that we are elevated to the glory of Heaven! Let us turn to Mary, who to the highest degree benefits from the glory of the eternal Light in virtue of the merits and of the lowering of her Son, and ask Her to help us understand the greatness of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the honour of the glory which it brings us, in proportion to our humility and our service in the footsteps of Christ!



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