Reflection for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
My Dear Good People,
In today’s Gospel (Mark 10:35-45) we find the apostles in a very human situation: two of them are asking Jesus for special treatment: “May we sit at your right hand and your left hand in your kingdom?” and the other ten are indignant. Jealous. Angry. All of the above. I have to admit that I’ve been there once or twice in my long life. I’ve been part of a group in which there was an important person, a leader, someone with special charisma and I wanted to be seen by him/her. I would have settled for an autograph, or an invitation to come aside for a special conversation, or at least a little notice, just to prove to myself that I was worthy of it. Usually I try to be subtle, but just this once (or twice) I threw caution to the wind and stepped forward. Pick me! Pick me!
Or, maybe for you the situation was a bit different. Maybe you were so drawn to someone that you decided to be open about your feelings, and dared to ask for a special visit. Maybe you offered a ride to the airport, or even suggested that you have a talent that could be of use to the individual—not because you wanted to leave the others behind, but because you wanted to be close, to learn from her/him, to get to know your ‘hero’ better. If the others wanted the same thing, let them ask for it. You were just not going to lose this chance to deepen your relationship with someone who seemed to be a kindred spirit.
I suspect the incident in this Gospel was more a case of the latter. James and John, brothers, loved the Lord and didn’t want to be far from Him, especially in death. There. That simple. And that profound. But the others didn’t like their chutzpah. I think they might have even wished they themselves had dared to be so bold, or, better yet, had even thought to ask!
Jesus, who loved each of his men, took them all at face value. He wasn’t angry at the nerve of James or John (or their lack of sensitivity), and he didn’t seem to be upset by the indignation of the ten. Disappointed, perhaps, that after all this time they still didn’t understand that they should seek the lowest place, wanting to serve rather than be served. But He saw it all as a teachable moment. Jesus was like that, pointing out where their outlook was wrong but not condemning them. I think Jesus was leaving something in them for the Holy Spirit to heal after He, Jesus, was gone.
What does this all mean for us? First, we can learn that when we see someone doing something brass (my mom would say to us kids, aintcha got no couth?), we can look the other way, or swallow our own indignation and remember that we’ve probably done the same thing once too many times. Or, we can try to see what was behind the person’s behavior. Everyone, after all, has a story…. We can also make excuses for the offender: that’s how she must have been brought up. And, if we ourselves are the recipient of such insensitivity, we can think to ourselves, what would Jesus do? That phrase may be overused, but it can stop us short and help us look at the situation from His point of view. After all, what will it matter in the grand scheme of things?
And then there’s this: I can ask myself, in the face of another’s self-seeking behavior, do I want to possess Jesus and be possessed by Him as much as this person wants to be noticed, lifted up,
honored? What is my passion, after all? What do I live for? Rather, Who is my passion? Who do I live for?
We prayed in the opening prayer at Mass this weekend,
“Almighty God, may we always serve your majesty in sincerity of heart.”