A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to Mark 10:32-45
The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.” Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The chalice that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them,” You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Opening Prayer: Attend to the pleas of your people with heavenly care, O Lord, we pray, that they may see what must be done and gain the strength to do what they have seen. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.
In today’s gospel reading, we find one of several clashes between Jesus and his disciples in Mark’s gospel, as they make their way to Jerusalem, the city where Jesus will be crucified. Jesus and his disciples are clearly on different wavelengths. The difference between them finds expression in the very different questions they ask of each other. The question the two disciples, James and John, ask Jesus focuses on glory, honor, and status. The question that Jesus asks James and John focuses on the experience of rejection and suffering that he has to face, ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I must be baptized?’ Jesus was referring to the cup of suffering and the baptism of fire. The question of James and John showed their interest in self-promotion. The question of Jesus showed his interest in self-giving. At the heart of being his disciple is self-giving love, becoming the servant of others, and this will often mean taking the way of the cross, as Jesus knew from his own experience. James and John, and all of us, are being called to follow the one who did not come to be served but to serve, whose purpose in life was not to promote him but to empty him for others. It is only in following this way that we will receive that share in Jesus’ glory that was the focus of James and John’s request.
To be sure we hear the whole message, listening in prayer requires that we silence our mind and open our hearts to everything God wants to say: “We ‘gather up’ the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed” (CCC 2711).
Jesus responded to James and John’s request by asking if they could share in the sufferings he was about to experience. “We can,” they answered. Was their answer impulsive? Were they overestimating their capabilities, their courage, or their strength? Was their pride speaking? Pride is so much a part of human nature that we all struggle with it at some point, and often don’t recognize it at work in our decision-making. These men eventually overcame any pride or personal ambition they had because they suffered and died for Christ and his Church. By God’s grace, may we too put aside our pride to know, love, and serve our Savior with undivided hearts until we meet him one day in eternity.
The ten apostles were grumbling against James and John, and Jesus put a stop to it. He summoned them, like twelve petulant children, to teach them (and us) an important lesson. Our greatness, Jesus told them, is measured by the quality of the service we give to another. We are not to lord our authority over others but instead imitate Jesus by being willing to die for others, to give of ourselves without counting the cost. As St. Paul said later, “Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Jesus, you are very clear in this interaction with your Apostles about what you expect from us as your followers. We are to listen well to you, which means quieting our busy minds; act like a Christian, which means overcoming our pride; and be at service to those you place in our paths, which means putting aside our own agenda at times. Lord, these are things we have been trying to do for a while as your faithful follower. Please give us the grace to radically amend our lives, put aside any personal ambition, and love you purely as did John the Beloved, so that we can truly serve others sacrificially.
Lord, today by your grace I will pray the Litany of Humility and observe how it changes my heart and actions towards others.