29th Sunday ordinary time Year B- World Mission Sunday

Theme: Collaboration: MISSION IS OUR CAUSE

As it is commonly said that life is a game which we all have to play it. Likewise for the mission which invites all of us to assume an active part by support it in all good ways at our disposal. Mission is enjoyable if embraced in the spirit of collaboration while reaching out to others. Mission asks us to be gospel-driven so as to inspire all us to attend to the needs of others.

First reading: Isaiah 53:10-11

Isaiah lived in a time astonishingly similar to our own with rumors of war all over provoking him to intervene in political, military, diplomatic and religious matters which was rare. Always true to the word of God, Prophet Isaiah served in several capacities; first as a court advisor where he was ignored to the point that he had to threaten the loyal family with destruction. He went ahead to predict destruction of the nation which later happened. At a time in its history when Judah looked in vain to its kings for guidance and example, Isaiah profiled a leader unlike any the people had ever known. He foretold them that their leader would be a servant who would suffer and die for their sake. This king would not be chosen by dynastic succession or the will of the people, but a servant like appointed and empowered with God’s own spirit to establish justice and truth. This king would accomplish all without benefit of crown, scepter, armies or weapons. His strength would lie in his capacity to innocently endure affliction for the justification and salvation of the guilty. He would prove that to be great goes beyond titles entailing sacrifice and servant hood.

Astonishingly, out of love, this servant would live and die so that the unjust may know God. He would be crushed, reproached, despised, disfigured, wounded and he would die without ever opening his mouth to demand a hearing or to curse his persecutors. Still staggering with disbelief, Isaiah predicts that the Lord would be pleased to crush this suffering servant with infirmity but later restitute him to glory due to his unshakable love. This being so, we need to understand the servant songs not as dirges but as victorious and celebratory love songs. The rare attitude of the suffering servant wins admiration because it proves that God’s love is so unique that only those who are patient can perceive it. Similarly God wants us to love all people until it hurts. Only selfless love marked by service, suffering and sacrifice makes one live forever.

Second reading: Hebrews 4:14-16

Whereas Isaiah prophesied the necessary and sacrificial role of God’s servant in the plan of salvation, he affirmed Jesus’ priestly activity as the keeper of the true covenant. The priests of the old played the role of: 1- mediators and interpreters of God’s will; 2- educators and advisers of the people in their observance of the law; and 3- offering of sacrifice for themselves and the community cf. Deuteronomy 33:7-11. After deportation with the monarchy remaining a mere memory, priests emerged to be leaders and guides of the people both religiously and politically. The priest became the leader and guardian of the liturgy, custodian of the sacred traditions, president of the Sanhedrin and liaison between his people and the Roman occupying forces. From 37 B.C. onwards, the high priest was the most powerful and influential person in the Palestinian Jewish community. Nevertheless, the saving activity of Jesus superseded this most unique and important position. While comparing Jesus’ ministry to that of the high priest, Letter to Hebrews classifies Jesus’ priestly integrity to be so unique to the point of rendering the Israelite priesthood defunct.

Like the high priest, Jesus was representative of the people but, unlike him, he did not approach the holy of holies only once a year, nor was it necessary, as it was for the high priest for Jesus to offer a sacrifice for his own sin cf. Leviticus 4-5. He took upon himself the totality of the human condition by virtue of the incarnation; though tempted, he did not succumb to evil. His sacrifice was a vicarious one for the sins of humankind. Of course, Jesus knew the allure of temptation at its fiercest more than we could ever know. Moreover, his experience of temptation was ongoing cf. Hebrews 4:15. But because of his victory over temptation, his unique priesthood and perfect sacrifice, the sins of humankind were expiated thus removing the walls that alienated and separated us forever. It is through Jesus that we have become forgiven and redeemed sinners with free access to God’s mercy and favor. With Jesus’ unequivocal victory over sin and death, the throne of the almighty, which seemed forbidden and inaccessible, has become a source of grace which inspires confidence and strength.

Gospel: Mark 10:35-45

If today’s gospel were to have a title, perhaps it could be ‘Be careful what you wish for!’ James and John wished for greatness; their desire is evident in their request to be given the most honorable positions when Jesus finally came into his glory. No doubt, the other disciples’ indignation with the two brothers was due, in part, to the fact that James and John had ‘beaten them to the punch’, as it were, by being the first to request a share in Jesus’ greatness. Reflected in the brothers’ request was the common expectation that the messianic reign would be both political and temporal. A chief motivating factor for that expectation was a vision of Israel, restored to the greatness it had enjoyed under David and Solomon, with the twelve tribes once more in positions of power and prestige. As representatives of the twelve tribes of the new Israel, the disciples hoped to bask in the reflected glory of Jesus.

Their lack of comprehension concerning the reign of God and the demands of their calling provided an opportunity for a lesson in discipleship. With two metaphors borrowed from the Scriptures, Jesus taught the brothers and the rest of the disciples what a share in his reign would entail “can you drink the cup I shall drink?” Mark 10:38, Jesus asked. The cup was a symbol of the life experience allotted to each person by God. In some instances, the cup signified joy and blessings cf. Psalm 23:5. In other situations, the cup was one of woe cf. Isaiah 51:17. “Can you be baptized in the same bath of pain as I?” Mark 10:39, Jesus asked again. With this reference Jesus alerted his disciples to the fact that their relationship with him would submerge them in calamity and suffering. With certainty, Jesus could promise his followers a share in his cup and bath, which was his cross while only the Father would determine the reward.

Having adjusted their vision of the coming reign of God, Jesus then went on to further instruct his disciples concerning their aspirations to greatness. The general standard of greatness for Jesus’ contemporaries was power and the extent of that power was determined by how many people were at their service and under their command. The Christian Community of the sixties AD to which the gospel of Mark was addressed was enmeshed in a Roman atmosphere which had its own definition of greatness. Galba, for example, who succeeded Nero in 68 A.D, summed up his world’s idea of greatness when he declared that, now that he was emperor, he could do whatever he wished and do it to whomever he wished! Over and against this backdrop, Jesus’ disciples held a different standard of greatness, which was that of service. The test of greatness in the reign of God is not how many people are at my service but how may I be of service to the many.

The quality of service that Jesus expects from his disciples is in willingness to be completely available for others to the extent of loosing all since glory can only be achieved by embracing the Cross like Jesus the suffering servant. Through his saving service, Jesus redeemed those who had pledged their life to death by freeing them from sin all who had been enslaved by its power. Jesus wants us to be free, let us remain free indeed.

Application

From the time of the mythical tower of Babel, people have equated greatness with “climbing to the top and making a name for ourselves” Genesis 11:4. Today it is only selfless love marked by service, suffering and sacrifice that makes one great. Since we share in the unique priesthood of Jesus, we have to desist all evil and temptation at all costs. Who ever wishes to be great is aspiring for a good and worthy cause as long as we are willing to wash the feet of the poor, care  for sick and the less privileged of. Humility is the way to success. Today being world mission Sunday, let us pledge to pray, support missions with our finances and encourage vocations to build a missionary world where Jesus is Lord. To be missionary is part and parcel of each believer’s daily experience, therefore let us be active, holy, Catholic and apostolic evangelizers.

 


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