The 29th Sunday is Mission Sunday. Pope Benedict integrates the message of the day’s Gospel to Revelation 21:24 “The nations will walk in his light.” This verse from John’s revelation echoes passages about the Suffering Servant who because of his obedience to God even to the point of suffering and death becomes a light to the nations. In the day’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples the kind of life-style they should have: that of the Servant. The Church, the Body of Christ desires to be what its Head is like. She has received the example of the Servant from her Lord and desires that she too may live with consistency what was given to her as a model to follow. Thus, speaking about the mission of the Church, the Pope writes
Participation in the mission of Christ is also granted to those who preach the Gospel, for whom is reserved the same destiny as their Master. “Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too” (John 15:20). The Church walks the same path and suffers the same destiny as Christ, since she acts not on the basis of any human logic or relying on her own strength, but instead she follows the way of the Cross, becoming, in filial obedience to the Father, a witness and a travelling companion for all humanity.1
- A Politics of Service and Self-giving
- (Hebrews 4:14-16) Jesus the Great High Priest
- How To Achieve Greatness
- A Reflection by Rev. Tom Harries
- Sons of Entitlement
- The Call to Downward Mobility
Guide to the Readings
1. Instead of beginning your study of Mark 10:35-45 on verse 35, go back and begin reading from v. 32 which situates the the request of James and John and gives you an idea of the prevailing atmosphere when the request was made.
2. Verses 35-45 can easily be divided into two parts: (a) the request of James and John and (b) the reaction of the other disciples. In both these parts the words of Jesus are important. If we understand these words in the light of the previous statement he makes in vv. 32-34, the statements become clearer.
3. Some things you may want to look into:
3.1. The disciples may have been anticipating an entrance into Jerusalem that is equivalent to a Messianic takeover with Jesus at the head. This would explain the fear in those who were following and the “astonishment” of the Twelve who may not have been expecting the move towards the Holy City at that time. James and John may have been anticipating a victory and so they ask to be placed at the right and left of Jesus when he enters into his glory as king of Jerusalem.
3.2. Jesus mentions a “cup” and a “baptism” that he still needs to undergo. Both references are to his suffering. The “cup” is the “cup of wrath” that God will pour in judgment. Jesus will pray at Gethsemane later on that God let the cup pass away. On the other hand, Jesus’ baptism at the hands of John the Baptist already foreshadowed his suffering. The Voice from heaven identified him there as the Servant when it said: “You are my Son, the Beloved, in whom my pleasure rests.”
3.3. In verse 43, Jesus tells the disciples not to allow the model of leadership prevalent among the Gentiles. He specifies the Gentiles because he knew where the Gentiles got their model for authority: from the Ancient Near East where rulers were also gods and tyrants.
3.4. What our modern translations render as “ransom” refers to the payment for people who have became slaves because of debts. The metaphor of “ransom” and “drinking from the cup” are the basis for two images of salvation: that of redemption (“ransom”) that of “substitution”: Jesus making his own the condemnation of death that should have been for us.
Comparing the Readings
The first reading from Isaiah 53:10-11 is echoed in Mark 10:45: “through his suffering my Servant shall justify many.” In the second reading taken from Hebrews 4:14-16 what Jesus has accomplished is explained in cultic and hieratical terms. Jesus is the Great High Priest who because of his solidarity with men is able to sanctify them, not with the blood of animals, but with his own blood.
Suggestions for the Lesson
The liturgical year nears its end. In a few more weeks we will be celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King. In anticipation of this great event, we review what that kingship meant for the Lord and what it should mean for us.
The lesson which Jesus gives to his disciples about politics is a reminder that in the community of faith, politics should be that of service. “Politics” in its original sense is about the distribution of the goods that enter into the city. As such its etymological meaning was about a service that is meant for the good of all, the res publica. But soon politics became the exercise of power; even the root of the Hebrew word for “king” means “to trample on”. Jesus does not want that for his community. On the night before he died, he left his disciples an example of what Christian leadership should be when he washed the feet of his disciples (see John 13).
Pope Benedict XVI writes about this kind of service in his letter on the occassion of Mission Sunday
The nations will walk in its light” (Revelation 21:24). The goal of the Church’s mission is to illumine all peoples with the light of the Gospel as they journey through history towards God, so that in Him they may reach their full potential and fulfilment. We should have a longing and a passion to illumine all peoples with the light of Christ that shines on the face of the Church, so that all may be gathered into the one human family, under God’s loving fatherhood.
It is in this perspective that the disciples of Christ spread throughout the world work, struggle and groan under the burden of suffering, offering their very lives. I strongly reiterate what was so frequently affirmed by my venerable Predecessors: the Church works not to extend her power or assert her dominion, but to lead all people to Christ, the salvation of the world. We seek only to place ourselves at the service of all humanity, especially the suffering and the excluded, because we believe that “the effort to proclaim the Gospel to the people of today… is a service rendered to the Christian community and also to the whole of humanity” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 1), which “has experienced marvellous achievements but which seems to have lost its sense of ultimate realities and of existence itself” (Redemptoris Missio, 2).2