21st October 2018 GSC
SERMON FOR 29THSUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME – YEAR B – Sunday 21stOctober 2018 at The Good Shepherd – Tottenham. Preacher: Fr. Beer
The relatively short passage from St. Mark`s Gospel is, again, on Our Lord`s last journey up to Jerusalem and is a great lesson in both Christology or explaining the nature of Jesus and it is also a profound lesson on Christian discipleship. It is also the third prediction in Mark`s Gospel of Jesus forthcoming passion, and it begins with the rather forward request of James and John who, together with Simon Peter, were the inner circle of Our Lord`s disciples. They had shared his ministry for almost three years and were among the first chosen. They come over as very self-seeking as they ask Jesus to do them a favour – the favour being the request that Jesus should let them sit on each side of him when he enters into his glory. The request is “push” at best and entirely self-seeking at its worst! After sharing his ministry they seem to have learned very little. The story, as related by St. Matthew in his Gospel at chapter20, has a slightly different slant for it the wife of Zebedee and mother of James and John who asks that Jesus should place her sons in the two places of honour when he comes into his kingdom. Both reveal ambition and selfishness which is often a common trait in we human beings.
In response to the request, be it from the brothers or their mother, Jesus rebukes them saying that they do not know what they are asking and then pointedly makes the question, `Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised ?` So self-assured are they that they replied, `We can.` It is then that Jesus tells them that the cup that he must drink they also shall drink and the baptism with which he is to be baptised they too shall be baptised.` But he then continues to explain that the seats of honour that they seek are not his to grant but that they belong to those to whom have been allotted. In the version in Matthew 20 Jesus is more specific in that he says, `These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.`
Not surprisingly the other ten of the apostles, including Simon Peter, are more than a touch put out and feeling quite indignant with James and John.
When Jesus asked whether they could be baptised with the baptism with which he was to be baptised or drink of the cup from which he must drink, some have seen it as an illusion to the eucharistic chalice and the baptism a reference to the sacrament of Christian initiation, but more accurately it has been seen as a reference to the cup of suffering that he was to receive in the Garden of Gethsemane and whilst Peter AND James and John were in Gethsemane with the Lord they revealed the weakness of their discipleship by falling asleep. The baptism is, of course, the baptism of his own blood shed upon the cross for their and our salvation.
Jesus, seeing the ensuing consternation calls the twelve to him to teach them about true discipleship which is such a contrast to the ways of the world! He says, `You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No, anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant and anyone who want to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give up his life as a ransom for many. `
Jesus clearly teaches that a place in his kingdom demands suffering, that it is not his prerogative to determine status in the coming kingdom – but rather his Father`s and also that leadership in his kingdom requires service and self-sacrifice.
Christ`s kingdom is, quite clearly, not of this world or of this world`s standards. We know of a certainty that of the twelve apostles one apostasised by betraying his Master and then in shame took his own life and was later replaced by the election of Matthias the rest, saving John alone, gained a martyrs death – James being the first by being beheaded in Jerusalem, the rest in various places and John alone living to ripe old age having cared for the Lord`s Mother, writing that deeply spiritual Gospel that bears his name and teaching the faith.
The predictions of the coming Passion and death of the Lord found in this short passage from St. Mark fulfil that passage from Isaiah 53 which we heard earlier and which shows how Jesus perfectly fulfils the role of the suffering servant: 2By his sufferings shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on himself.” This is further emphasised in the high priestly nature of Jesus as we heard from the Letter to the Hebrews chapter 4: `For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. Let us be confident then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.`
There is just so much for us to take hold of in today`s readings – so much that gives us hope for the future and for when this world passes away because of our Blessed Lord`s self-offering and his ongoing love.
May his Holy Name be praised!