The LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity. If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.
Refrain: Lord, let your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you.
1) Upright is the word of the LORD, and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full. (Refrain)
2) See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine. (Refrain)
3) Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in you. (Refrain)
Brothers and sisters: Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."
He replied, "What do you wish me to do for you?"
They answered him, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left."
Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"
They said to him, "We can."
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 or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared."
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved.
Used with permission of ICEL.]
The Gospel of Mark, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY. 1975.
Cross, Crown and Commitment, from More Telling Stories, Compelling Stories, by William J. Bausch, pp. 98-103. Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, CT. 06355: 1993.
Are We Able? From Secretary to St. Peter: The Gospel of Mark, by Dr. Donald Strobe, pp. 167-171. Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN. 37922.
Days of the Lord, Volume 5, pp.265-273. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN., 1993.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1975.
The Cultural World of Jesus, by John J. Pilch, pp.151-153. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN. 1996.
The Word Encountered, by John F. Kavanaugh, pp. 114-116. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY 1996.
Mark, by Wilfrid Harrington, pp. 164-170. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN. 1979.
Catechism: #1905-1917 (Common good) & 555, 580, 601, 608, 615 (Jesus as the A Servant of God). United States Catholic Conference, Washington, DC: 1994. [As recommended by: A Homily Sourcebook (The Universal Catechism), by N. Abeyasingha. The Pastoral Press, Washington, DC: 1993.]
service as exemplified by our Lord's washing of the disciples' feet at the Last Supper.
- In his book An Hour Before Daylight, former President Jimmy Carter reflects on his childhood in rural Georgia, his relationship with his parents, and his infamous brother Billy. He writes, "Mama always said that Billy was the smartest of her children, and none of us argued with her. . . . When the international news media moved into our town during the 1976 presidential campaign, Billy became the center of attention. He drank more, talked more, and saw his deliberately outrageous statements quoted as serious comments. . . He was always good for a delightful quote. When one of the reporters remarked that Billy was a little strange, he replied, "Look, my Mama was a seventy-year-old Peace Corps volunteer in India, one of my sisters goes all over the world as a holy-roller preacher, my oldest sister spends half her time on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and my brother thinks he's going to be President of the United States. Which one of our family do you think is normal?" (Quoted on p. 14 in Leonard Sweet's book Jesus Drives Me Crazy!, p. 266 in Carter's.}
- "If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully -- the life you save may be your own -- and Jesus says, Whoever would say his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says Law and Order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get, and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world's sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion. (Quoted on p. 30 in Leonard Sweet's book, from Frederick Buechner's, The Life of Jesus, p. 136}
Commitment, the Cross and the Crown
If we were to read verses 33 and 34 of Mark's gospel which immediately precede today's passage, we would hear our Lord telling his disciples once again in no uncertain terms that he would be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, and then would be scourged, mocked, spat upon, die and rise again on the third day. According to Mark, no sooner does he finish saying these things when James and John make their request of him which we have just heard. In other words, the events which Jesus has just predicted have had no effect on the disciples; all they are still thinking about are their own places in his kingdom.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that this has happened. If we were to return to the gospel of Mark which was read just a few weeks ago in chapter 9, Jesus had no sooner finished predicting his passion and death for a second time when he perceives that the disciples are arguing with one another over which of them would be the greatest in his kingdom. In other words, the disciples are still thinking in terms of power, while our Lord has a much different agenda to follow. His kingdom is to be based on service. As he teaches the disciples in today's passage, "Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the servant of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." In the previous chapter, he had said much the same thing: "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and the servant of all."
Today's first reading from Isaiah gives us a very specific clue as to what Jesus' kingdom would be all about. "If he gives his life as an offering for sin,the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through him. Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear." In other words, Isaiah is predicting the threefold aspect of true discipleship as exemplified in Christ's life: commitment (to the will of the Father), acceptance of the cross as the suffering servant in order to gain the crown of eternal life.
As disciples of Jesus, we must first commit ourselves to following the will of the Father. As our Lord demonstrated in his own life, this is not easy to do. For a modern day example of how difficult it can be to accept the Father's will, we need look no further than the events of a few years ago in our own neighborhood. A young boy was senselessly murdered by another youth who was himself the victim of a sexual crime. We could ask ourselves over and over, as I'm sure both of these families have: "O God, why did you have to let this happen?" Why did Tanya Nickens have to die in a whirlpool accident at a supposedly "safe" high school graduation party? Why did God permit his own Son to be crucified and die an ignominious death on the cross? After all, Christ could have lived an exemplary life as an example for us without ever suffering as he did. We will never know the answer to these questions. In tragic situations such as these, all we can do is pray for healing and forgiveness in the families involved and pray that their faith, and the support of their loved ones, will help them through the difficult ordeal. In following Christ's example, the first aspect of discipleship is commitment to accept the will of the Father even when it leads to the cross.
Unless we enter deeply into his passion and death, we can never know the extent of the suffering which Christ endured on our behalf. But that was the price of the crown. And it is a fact that suffering brings out the best in us, as does any adversity. Consider the tragic events we have witnessed with the murdered boy and his accused. If there is anything which may have helped the family through these trying times, it would have to be the love and concern shown by total strangers who have been affected by the tragedy. Each in their own way wanted to "be present" for the families, because it is at times such as these that words fail us. Our presence is what matters the most. There is a story which one pastor shared on the internet recently which addresses this point.
- I remembered something that happened to me about 12 years ago. A young couple whom I married had a baby boy who was born with all his intestines outside his body. In correcting that, his liver was damaged. He spent the first 9 months of his life 90 miles from home in the hospital. He was in line for a liver transplant. He finally came home to await the transplant. He seemed to be thriving. Something happened and he was rushed back to the hospital and placed on a respirator. I drove there to be with the family. The parents and grandparents were told they would do an EEG in the morning to see if there was any brain function. The father and I waited all night in the waiting room. Mom and the grandparents stayed nearby. The next day the news was not good. The family chose to turn off the respirator. Dad sat in the rocking chair and tenderly held his son until he died. I stood in the background feeling useless. There was nothing to say. I had nothing to offer. When the baby died, I offered a prayer with the family. Then we all left. I felt like a failure after that day. I felt like I had blown it as their pastor. The guilt hung on and I didn't know what to do about it. About two weeks after the funeral, I received a letter from the grandmother in which she said, "Thank you for being there. You reminded us that God was there with us and that we were not alone." That letter has meant more to me than almost any other I have received in my 16 years of pastoring. It reminded me that sometimes being there is enough. Sometimes it is even better than speaking. (1)
Adversity and suffering allow us to be present to, and thereby serve, others, which is what our Lord was telling the disciples in today's gospel. Specifically, what does service mean for us? For myself, as a deacon, the word service has a very special connotation because the word "deacon" comes from the Greek word "diakonos", which means one who serves and is the word used in today's gospel by our Lord to describe himself and his mission. "The Son of Man came to serve."
There is a song by Richard Gillard which has come to mean a great deal to me. I believe that it speaks eloquently of the various manifestations of the word "service".
- Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too. (2)
This verse reinforces that the Lord is our role model in all we do. It also makes a very important point that at times we must let others minister to our needs. Only those who have felt Christ's healing and forgiveness through the actions of others can also be instruments of his peace.
- We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav'lers on the road;
We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.
This verse really summarizes so well what we have been discussing so far: we serve others by helping them bear their load, whatever that may be.
- I will hold the Christ-light for you in the nighttime of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.
It is only the light of Christ which can pierce the darkness of our fear. If we bring our problems to the Lord and let him take care of them, then we need not fear the future and this will bring Christ's peace into our hearts. And what is Christ's peace? It is the acceptance of one's situation without anger, resentment or bitterness. We will look at this in greater detail next week when we hear about the blind beggar Bartimaeus.
- I will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow 'til we've seen this journey through.
It is easy to share in the joys of our family, friends and community. But it is much more difficult to be present for them in times of sorrow, when words fail us and cannot adequately express our true feelings, as we discussed above. We must be "companions" with others on their journey, which means that we have to "break bread with" them.
- When we sing to God in heaven, we shall find such harmony,
Born of all we've known together of Christ's love and agony.
This is such a beautiful image, that someday we will all have beautiful voices to sing God's praises in harmony with one another, without any discord. And here we have come full circle: back to Christ's love and his ultimate act of service to us - his death on the cross.
In our reading, it is James and John who ask Jesus to be at his left and right, and it is they who also share in his transfiguration and in his agony in the garden. And since they are so close to our Lord during his life, I believe that Jesus is telling anyone in a leadership role in the Church to be the first to serve others. One obtains the first place by taking the last, that of a child, and even more, that of a slave who asks nothing in return for what they do. (It should be noted that when Christ washed the feet of the disciples,this act could not be required of even the lowliest Jewish slave.) Providing good service is also sound judgment in the business world where those firms that provide the best service will receive the most patronage.
Commitment, the cross and service of others. These are required of every disciple of Christ in order to obtain the crown of everlasting life. By doing God's will, accepting the cross and serving others, we are most closely "walking the mile" that Jesus walked. We are also imitating his example by becoming a servant, or deacon, for others. May we then all become deacons in the truest sense of the word.
1. Contributed by Penney Rahm (email@example.com).
2. Servant Song, by Richard Gillard. Copyright 1977 by Scripture in Song, a division of Integrity Music, Inc. ASCAP.
(Copyright 2006 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
October 21, 2018
Lord Jesus, through your suffering, you justified many and willingly bore our guilt. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you gave your life as an offering for sin and accomplished the will of the Father. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you came not to be served but to serve. Lord, have mercy.
October 21, 2018
Celebrant: In our Lord, Jesus Christ, we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, one who has been tested in every way, yet never sinned. Therefore, because he understands us as only a brother does, we can be confident that he will intercede for us as we can bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer."
That the leaders of the Church will selflessly serve their congregations, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world, especially in the Middle East, will do all in their power to promote peace, we pray to the Lord.
That on this Mission Sunday, the Lord will invigorate the efforts of all those who labor as missionaries, peacemakers and evangelists, we pray to the Lord.
That all mothers, fathers and their extended families who have lost children to abortion may find peace through the healing power of Christ, we pray to the Lord.
That all those who will die today might gently journey home to God with the prayers and consoling presence of family and friends, we pray to the Lord.
That God might bless all those who work to promote the Gospel of Life by prayer, by witness and by action, we pray to the Lord.
That God might give us the grace to love and cherish all those who have grown very old and suffer the losses and pains of old age, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, your Son came to serve and not to be served. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to follow his example and thereby gain the crown of everlasting life which he has won for us at such a great price. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.