The Abbot's Desk
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
[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. 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.
We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God; let us hold fast to our profession of faith. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor and to find help in time of need.
Zebedee's sons, James and John, approached Jesus. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to grant our request." "What is it?" he asked. They replied, "See to it that we sit, one at your right and the other at your left, when you come into your glory." Jesus told them, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I shall drink or be baptized in the same bath of pain as I?" "We can," they told him. Jesus said in response, "From the cup I drink of you shall drink; the bath I am immersed in you shall share. But sitting at my right or my left is not mine to give; that is for those for whom it has been reserved." The other ten, on hearing this, became indignant at James and John. Jesus called them together and said to them: "You know how among the Gentiles those who seem to exercise authority lord it over them; their great ones make their importance felt. It cannot be like that with you. Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest; whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all. The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve -- to give his life in ransom for the many."
Text from Lectionary for Mass
© 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine
© 1969 International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc.
All rights reserved
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
"Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many." These words from today's first reading show us the theme that we must ponder today. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus almost in the same way as on Good Friday. Jesus gives "his life in ransom for the many."
Scripture is given to us so that we might change. Our eyes are on Jesus today as we meditate a bit more on His suffering. The invitation is for us to embrace the sufferings in our lives so that Christ's gift of salvation might be known in the whole world.
None of the prophets liked to suffer. No great religious teacher is going to exalt suffering for its own sake. Generally we humans do not like to suffer. We find all kinds of ways to avoid it. There is something basically healthy in trying to avoid suffering. On the other hand, when we avoid suffering on our part and inflict suffering on others, we need to examine our consciences. We know that Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemani, asked that the cup of suffering be taken away from Him, if that was possible.
The other side of suffering we see over and over in our world and in the history of all peoples. Those who love deeply are willing to give their own lives up for those they love. We see this in mothers protecting their children from harm, in fathers trying to protect their families and sometimes in friends. We can think of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, who was willing to give his life in Auschwitz so that a prisoner who had a family might live.
We see people willing to suffering in solidarity with others. Here we might think of Edith Stein (Sister Teresa, Benedicta a Cruce), who chose to die in solidarity with her own Jewish people rather than escape the holocaust because she had become a Catholic nun.
It is this kind of suffering that we must meditate on today, since Jesus chose to die for us. Jesus accepted suffering and death so that we might live. Are we willing to chose suffering and even death so that others might live? Most of us will not be put to this test in the way of the martyrs--but daily in our small choices we manifest our capacity to offer our lives for others.
The mother of the family who has a job and yet takes care of an ailing parent or a sick child with obvious generosity of spirit is such an example of suffering love. The father of a family who loses his wife to death and has young children will often embrace a life of dedicated suffering to raise his children well. We see friends willing to go out of their way to help others who are in need. We see many people willing to go and work in poorer nations for the good of others.
The second reading today, from the Letter to the Hebrews, is about this solidarity with others. Jesus, our High Priest, is like us in all things except sin: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned." That Jesus could suffer and still be God is a scandal for many, but for us Christians it shows how deeply united He is with us. Jesus takes on our humanity so that we can take on His divinity.
Today, if we are willing to love someone else enough to suffer for them, we take on the divinity of Jesus in our own lives.
© 2000 The Monastery of Christ in the Desert