Isaiah 53:10-11 Hebrews 4:14-16 Mark 10:35-45
In today’s first reading, Isaiah tells us,” The Lord has been pleased to crush his servant with suffering…and his soul’s anguish over he shall see the light and be content.” Just before the events we listen to in today’s Gospel Jesus told the 12 apostles for the third time that he is about to be tortured, put to death and then enter his Glory. But as before, they fail to understand and immediately begin to think of themselves and how this ‘glory’ bit will advance their future.
‘Master, we want you to do us a favour.’ James and John ask outright this time for a favour; that they be given the highest places when He enters His Glory. The others of course are mad with them, not because they object to such cronyism but because this is exactly what they too wanted for themselves the last time Jesus tried to instruct them about his Paschal Journey into Glory. Jesus’ response is swift, ‘You do not know what you are asking.’ The response of Jesus is that of a leader who knows what is good for both the individuals and for the common good. Would that our leaders act with the same integrity and decisiveness when assigning positions of prestige.
Today again, we meet Jesus, the teacher par excellence who doesn’t give up on them. The previous time he took the little child, effectively a nobody, as an example and told them they had to become like this child if they wanted to be great. Once more he uses paradoxical language to teach: ‘Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all’ Again, they fail to get his message even though Jesus reinforces his teaching by living it: ‘For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ The greatest example of his living out this teaching is at the Last Supper when he stoops down to wash and dry their feet saying, ‘If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’
In response to James and John’s request, Jesus asks: ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ This is the same question Jesus asked the blind man before immediately granting his request. Not so with James and John because what they asked for wasn’t meant for them, ‘It belongs to those to whom it has been allotted.’ We can’t be too critical of James and John: How often do we storm Heaven for favours for family and friends and then feel so disappointed with the silent response – ‘You do not know what you are asking.’
The author of Hebrews, in today’s second reading, helps us be confident when it comes to asking God for help, ‘We shall have mercy from Him and find grace when we are in need of help.’ And the Psalmist offers us a beautiful prayer, one that God will surely hear (and one that will surely help us too): ‘May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.’
We thank you Jesus for the opportunity to meet you in today’s gospel. We learn from that encounter about your willingness to serve and suffer; your patience and skill as a teacher and your discernment and decisiveness in granting and refusing requests. The other readings help us to pray with our hearts wide open to accepting your love in whatever form it may come. We ask that through this experience of you we, as individuals, Church and Society, may grow more deeply in love with you. May your love be upon us O Lord as we place all our hope in you.
Marie Redmond O.P.