The World Mission that we celebrate this Sunday reminds us of our vocation to participate in Christ’s mission of announcing the Good News of God’s Kingdom. What does that mean, in the light of the word of God proposed to us this Sunday?
Bible readings Isaiah 53: 10–11 Psalm 33: 4–5, 18–20, 22 Hebrew 4: 14–16 Mark 10: 35–45
Asking for seats of honour
Just few Sundays ago, we had Jesus teaching his disciples about humble service for others (Mt 9:33), after the disciples argued amongst themselves about who’s the greatest? That must have been quite embarrassing for them; they were busy disputing over honour at the time Jesus announced his suffering for the second time. You would say, the disciples hadn’t got it yet what it meant being Christ’s disciple. As if that wasn’t enough, the same race for honour repeats itself. Two brothers, James and John, ask Jesus for the honour of sitting one on his right and other other on the left. The request looks inappropriate as it comes, again, after Jesus announces his suffering, now for the third time. Apparently, despite the teaching and the example of Jesus, the disciples remain trapped in a career attitude. But it’s not just the disciples alone; the appetite for power and honour is probably in us too. Without giving up, Jesus continues to explain what it entails being his follower. Even today, he patiently walks with us as we sluggishly make our steps towards embracing the values of the Kingdom.
The response of Jesus
Even though it’s James and John who formulate the request, apparently, the other disciples too seem to be nurturing same aspirations. No wonder they are angry when they hear about it. So, let’s be careful; what we criticise in others may be exactly what we also yearn deep down within us.
For Jesus, however, it’s not about having power or not, but rather, what you do with it. In fact, we all have power in its various forms: it could be position of authority, knowledge, or wealth. Whatever form it is, however, the pertinent question we should be asking ourselves is this: how am I using my power? The Mission Sunday is an occasion for us to evaluate ourselves and see if at all we are putting our power at the service of the evangelising mission that Jesus entrusts us.
Indeed, from the Gospel we can develop a reflection on the humble service of others; but I have no intention to do it here. I refer to 25th Sunday B. Service: What are you arguing about?. Instead, I would like to propose to you another angle of reflection which I esteem to be equally important.
I have made up my mind
One thing that can be quite annoying is when someone presents to you a decision already made when you expected to participate in the reflection before deciding. It means, you are just made to swallow something decided for you. In certain cases that can be quite insulting. I smell a bit of such disrespect in the manner James and John present their request. In fact, I really wonder if we can call it a request: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” It sounds more of a command than anything else. Aren’t there times when we, too, lack courtesy in the manner we ask for things?
James and John in me
Firstly, I how do pray? How do I present my petitions? Don’t I sometimes make up my mind and then all I do in prayer is simply telling God what I feel he should be doing? When I leave out God in discerning my needs, before formulating my request, it’s like I reduce him to a spanner man who should merely tighten nuts as I commanded. In so doing, I reverse the roles: instead of listening to God; I oblige him to listen to me. This attitude can be seen also in our daily relationships.
When I look at the way I carry myself in a group, among my colleagues or in my couple; do I express my views in the manner that imposes or do I open and encourage discussion for discernment?
Mission; on the road with Jesus
The disciples are with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, but they just don’t get it yet. They are still on the journey of growth, like all of us. We are inhabited by so many desires and aspirations; in itself, that’s not bad. But there’s certainly need for alignment. As we celebrate the World Mission Sunday, happily for us, Jesus comes to orient those desires and aspirations so that they may be mobilised into instruments of service. And talking of service, it implies acting in manner that is attentive not only to our own needs but also, and most especially, to those of others. May this Mission Sunday be an occasion for us to become more Christ-like, that is, becoming servants of one another.
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About service: Holy Thursday: Washing the Feet -Love and Service