Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday, October 17, 2021
Holy Ghost Church – 8:00 & 10:00 Masses
Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45

Today’s gospel reading sheds light on the great value of suffering and service.

Jesus asks James and John, who want the positions of honor in his coming kingdom, if they are willing to drink the cup he drinks and be baptized in his baptism. In other words, to be given the honor they are requesting, are they willing to be united with him in his redemptive suffering and in giving up their lives in the service of others.? They say they are and he takes their willingness seriously: they will indeed drink his cup, and be plunged into his baptism. Or in other words into his death.

I think James and John were pretty much clueless as to what they had just signed up for. They may have thought they would be sharing in a cup of blessing, whereas Jesus had something else in mind…a cup of suffering and persecution.

As odd as it may sound to us today, sharing in Christ’s sufferings was considered a privilege and a joy for early Christians. And it should be equally true for us today. As Christians we should be pleased when we are chosen to endure suffering, either because of our faith or some other circumstances beyond our control.

Suffering is something that is totally misunderstood in today’s culture, yet it is the unavoidable doorway to glory. We go to great lengths to alleviate suffering in our lives. Some are even convinced that it is better to end one’s life than to experience the suffering that comes from enduring a terminal illness or some other sort of debilitating mental illness.

But the truth of the matter is that the suffering we experience can be joined to the suffering Christ himself experienced. In fact all suffering is INTENDED to be joined to his suffering.

We call this REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING. It is when we take up our own crosses – our brokenness, our illnesses, our heartaches and disappointments – and willingly endure them by joining them to Christ’s suffering.

By doing so, the suffering we experience becomes redemptive. It has healing power in our lives and in the lives of those for whom we offer it up. Our bodies as Christians, by being joined to the body of Christ in baptism, can truly be transformed into instruments of redemptive grace.

Our sufferings, willingly united with Christ’s, become in a mysterious but real way the means of grace for others. Together with Christ – as members of his body – we must bear the effects of evil in the world and share in its pain, assimilating it into our own flesh as Jesus did into his.

Jesus also speaks to us at the conclusion of today’s gospel of the importance of our lives being a life of service. He tells us that the Son of Man did not come to be served but to SERVE and to give his life as a ransom for many. Service is an antidote to suffering. It takes us outside of ourselves, enabling us to focus on the needs of others rather than on our own needs, on our own pain and difficulties.

Like suffering, service can also be very difficult for us. Why? Because it involves putting the needs of others ahead of our own desires. It involves entering into the suffering of others and making their lives a little better through our presence and our acts of kindness. Our human nature, as witnessed in the selfish ambitions of James and John in today’s gospel, is to get the best for ourselves, even if it’s at the expense of others.

Jesus gives us the secret to true greatness when he tells his disciples that the Son of Man did not come to BE SERVED but to SERVE and to give his life as a ransom for many.

True leadership, true greatness, entails being more concerned with the welfare of others than with ourselves. Putting aside the fulfillment of our own pleasures and selfish desires in order to do the will of our heavenly Father.

In spite of what we are told by the world in which we live, joy is not found in accumulating riches and experiencing passing pleasures. It is found in doing what we can to relieve the suffering of others. Being present to those who are in need, those who need hope and companionship, those who lack the resources we have.

So I ask us all, myself included, what are we willing to do to join our suffering to Christ’s? To offer our physical and emotional suffering for the good of others? Rather than complaining about something in our lives that is painful or uncomfortable, are we willing to offer it to God for a special intention? Are we willing to join our suffering to Christ, rather than allowing it to be a burden we just can’t bear?

And, what can we do to be better servants of those in need? Better servants of our family and friends, as well as those strangers who find themselves in desperate circumstances?

Are we willing to forgo some comfort or pleasure to make a difference in the lives of those who are in need? Are we, perhaps, willing to give up some of our leisure time to make a real difference in someone else’s life? This week let us pray as to how we can be better servants.

Gracefully enduring suffering and generously serving others are essential to our peace and joy in this life and in the next. Today as we come forward to receive Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist let us prayerfully ask him how we might do both of these better in the coming week.

God bless you.