10-11; Hebrews 4: 14-16;
Mark 10: 35-45
Intro: for many, greatness is measured in terms of the three “p’s”… power, possessions and pleasure. Today’s Gospel helps us understand that true greatness is about serving others, especially when it’s at a cost to ourselves. Jesus offered us the ultimate example by giving up His own life to save us all.
Readings: Isaiah sees how Jesus the Messiah, the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, will take our faults upon Himself and will atone for His people’s sins through His death and resurrection.
The author of Hebrews presents Jesus as the High Priest Who knows how difficult it can be to overcome our weaknesses, and so we can be confident of His mercy.
You would have thought that by this point in their lives, the apostles would have picked up on the fact that their Master’s likely future wasn’t likely to be one of glory, but rather of suffering and death. Not a bit of it. In the Gospel, we hear James and John jockeying for pole position in the power stakes. They’ve missed the mark, thinking that Jesus is about to introduce Himself as the promised Messiah and restore the kingdom of Israel. So they want status … promotion … to be there at His side, sharing His triumph, taking places of honour and being admired. They want the bonus without the onus! Jesus is forced to tell them bluntly that the only thing they’re likely to share with Him is His suffering – drinking from the same bitter cup as Him. While the other apostles are muttering away about the audacity of the pair, Jesus insists that the way of the pagans – lording it over others – must not be their way. Instead, their lives are to be lives of service, like His, serving rather than being served – “anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant.” He tells them that, sure, they’re certainly welcome to share in both His suffering and His glory … but it won’t be in this world.
What about ourselves: what motivates us? As disciples of Jesus, are we moved to give of ourselves, so that others may have a better life? Do we feel a human connection with people whose lives are in crisis for whatever reason? How do we feel about refugees, or asylum seekers?
If we are to follow the Master along the road to Jerusalem,
then our eyes need to be focused on what we can do for others rather than a seat at the top table.
Servant leadership involves a commitment to the welfare of others, going the extra mile, taking time to get to know what people like and need, listening to their tales of woe, their hopes and their fears, coming along side them to help them in their tasks, waiting patiently for them to get the hang of something (homework!), caring for them when they’re depressed, supporting them in a trauma. Even then, it’s sometimes necessary to step back and ask ourselves about our motive for doing some ostensibly charitable deed – is it to earn us brownie points or is there an ulterior motive? The desire to sit at the right hand of the Master dies hard. Like James and John, we sometimes fail to want the right thing and so the Lord teaches us too, bringing us round to His way of thinking, despite ourselves. Through the Sacraments, we’re renewed in mind and heart and, as we pray, we’re helped to love the things of Heaven, and judge more wisely the things of earth. It’s good to remember that we’re called to be faithful more than we’re called to be successful! So, today, let’s renew our commitment to follow Jesus in the way of humble service to those who need our help, trusting that He will help us to overcome our selfish tendencies to put ourselves in the first place