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October 19, 2003 Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time

This week, as we celebrate the Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, we are reminded by the Gospel reading that in Christianity, greatness is about serving others not about being served. The request of James and John prompts me to ask whether I understand this principle and how well I live it out in my life? The first reading focuses our attention on the sufferings of Jesus while the second reading focuses on the glory which Jesus has now. The two go together. There can be no resurrection without death first.

First Reading: Isaiah 53: 10-11

10 (But 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.

11 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.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 53:10-11 This is part of the last of the four "Servant-of-the Lord" oracles. The poem runs from 52:13 to 53:12 and is about one whose voluntary suffering atones for the sins of his people and saves them from just punishment at God's hands. Here we are told that because he underwent the suffering according to the Divine will he is rewarded with long life and happiness. From earliest days the church has seen Jesus in the role of God's servant who fulfilled the Lord's will perfectly.

Second Reading: Hebrews 4: 14-16

14 Therefore, 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. 15 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. 16 So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 4:14 This is the only place in the Epistle where Jesus is designated as "the great High Priest". The author may be trying to emphasize the superiority of Jesus over the Jewish high priest with whom He is frequently compared in Hebrews.

* 4:15 The only difference between the temptations we have and the ones that Jesus had is that He never gave in to them.

* 4:16 Jesus' throne has a prominent place in Hebrews as shown by the frequent use of Psalm 110:1 and it is directly mentioned in 1:8 The throne that the author has in mind here is the throne of God not Jesus' throne as can be seen by similarity with 10:19-20 It is the access to God that has been won by Jesus for His followers that the author has in mind.

Gospel Reading: Mark 10: 35-45

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." 36 He replied, "What do you wish (me) to do for you?" 37 They answered him, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." 38 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?" 39 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; 40 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." 41 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. 42 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. 43 But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; 44 whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
NOTES on Gospel:
* 10:35 Jesus has just told them about his upcoming suffering and death for the third time and James and John seem to be eager to change the subject to the much more pleasant subject of their reward.

* 10:37 The reference is to seats of honor on either side of Jesus at the Messianic Banquet. They are thinking "glory" but Jesus is pointing to suffering. The cup is a common figure of destiny or of what God has in store (Ps 11:6; 16:5; 75:9; Rev 14:10). It also carries an element of judgement with it. Jesus and His followers will have a share in the judgment to come. The willingness to go where Jesus goes and to undergo what He experiences is essential to being a follower of Jesus. In Mark's gospel this means willingness to undergo pain and suffering without thought of vindication. Jesus agrees that they will share in His suffering

* 10:42 This is Jesus' response to their apparent failure to understand His concept of leadership. The teaching on true greatness is the central point of this section. Those who want greatness must be willing to serve, not only God, but fellow disciples as well.

* 10:44 That they did "get it" eventually is shown by 1 Peter 5:1-4.

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The scripture quotes are from the text of the New American Bible with revised New Testament copyright © 1986,1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.