Reflection for Sunday – October 17, 2021
Readings: Isaiah 53: 10-11; Hebrews 4: 14-16; Mark 10: 35-45
Preacher: Lourdes Perez-Albuerne
“But it is not so among you; whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave to all.” For two years Jesus has walked Galilee, preaching, curing the sick and forgiving sinners. Yet, those who have been with Him all this time, who have seen Him act in a different way, have not understood His message and His way of living. They misunderstand His way of thinking, which keeps them from seeing who Jesus really is, and what is His mission; why His Father sent Him to live among us so we can better understand who God is and how God wants us to live. Jesus had just finished telling them for the third time what He expects will happen when He reaches Jerusalem. He accepts it because He has been faithful to the will of His Abba and will continue to do so.
John and James, away from the other disciples, ask to be placed above them. Jesus is surprised by this because it is completely the opposite of what He has been teaching all along. The other disciples, upon hearing about this, get upset with them, since they also aspired to those positions of power. Among the disciples, as among any community of followers of Jesus, searching for honors, seeking positions of leadership and power, destroys the union that should exist in that community. Is this how we act sometimes? Do we live in constant competition with those who walk with us along “the way?” Do we want to be better than those around us? Jesus’ thinking is the complete opposite. He lives in communion with His Father and wants us, created in God’s image, to mirror that relationship, considering each other as equals, not lording over one another.
In God’s way of being, power is not measured by the position we have or the titles one uses. The person who yearns for this is not considered His follower. He or she is not greater than others; as a matter of fact, the opposite is true. In reality chasing this lifestyle is a barrier to promote the style of life that God created us for. The person who lives this way is missing a basic quality in their life: service. A community of followers of Jesus should not have leaders or followers. Jesus’ teaching is not a religion of “authority,” which, to my way of thinking, is the religion in which we have lived up to now.
This kind of religion offers absolute certainties and strict structures. At the same time, it requires from its followers, obedience and certain forms of acting. Probably this is the model of church that we were raised in; it gives security to some and makes it impossible for others to wish to be part of that religion. But Vatican II and our Pope Francis call for synodality reflects better Jesus’ teachings. This type of religion “calls;” it does not impose a doctrine; it offers a way to salvation. It does not dictate, it only invites. It does not understand its actions like an exercise of power, but as a service to the People of God. It offers itself as service to the human being and invites us to search for God and God’s full life.
Last Sunday Pope Francis opened in Rome another Synod to study the way of being a better synodal church. In the document prepared explaining the work of the Synod, the Pope calls on us as the church, all the People of God, to try to hear and understand “which are the processes, looking and our present and past, that can help it to live in communion, to make reality the participation of all and to be opened to its mission.” It is important that we find ways to actively participate, especially, to advocate that the voices of minorities, those who live in the periphery, will be heard.
Today’s Gospel reading presents us with a choice. Who is a real follower of Jesus? Those who think based on worldly values and priorities, or those who think like sons and daughters of Jesus? Those who seek to achieve only their own salvation? Or those who hold what they have received, both materially and spiritually, as gifts to serve others as a means of salvation? What do we choose?
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What an excellent homily! I especially appreciated the way you tied the Gospel to the call for participation in the Synod. I also thought your insights about ‘authority’ verses invitation was very astute and timely. Thank you for offering your thoughts and words with us!
I admit to being really offended when I hear someone has been refused communion because feeding the hungry was so central to Jesus’ mission. He fed the 4000 on one occasion and 5000 on another and, as I quipped at a parish reading group, there is no record anyone was checked for circumcision (one friend said he’d never hear those reading without a boyish grin!). Even Judas was fed! I looked at the Gospels and, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Judas is identified before or after the establishment of the Eucharist but not explicitly sent away. Only John’s Gospel says… Read more »