HOMILY FOR TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (B)

Sr Louise O' Rourke


In the Gospel this Sunday we see James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approach Jesus and ask him for a favour. Jesus’ response: “What is it you want me to do for you?”. Their answer reveals that they want to be offered special places, power and prestige, either side of Jesus. When questioned if they were ready for all that the position would bring them, they affirm that they can. Little did they know at that stage where their discipleship, the true discipleship, would bring them!

We cannot help but think of another Scripture passage which speaks of two men being at the right hand and left hand of Jesus. These men, however, did not request these places. It was on the Cross where Jesus had either side of Him, a thief, both condemned to death, just like Jesus. One would realise the humble privilege of being alongside the Saviour of the world, the other would mock Him even in the last hours of death, questioning his identity as the Beloved Son of the Father. St. Thomas Aquinas once said: “Wisdom is the view from the hilltop.” On that hilltop of Calvary, we see the wisdom of the Father on the Cross, giving us the model of service and of greatness, of the One who came to serve and not serve and who gave his life as a ransom for many.

In different occasions in the Scriptures, Jesus asks someone: “What do you want?” or “what do you want me to do for you?”. We think of blind Bartimaeus- “Lord, that I may see”. We think of the disciples who were directed to Jesus through John the Baptist and they followed Him. Their answer: “We want to see Jesus.” If Jesus asked us, “What do you want me to do for you?”, what would our answer be? Would we ask for material things like wealth, security, power, or would we ask for the courage to walk the way of a Servant, cost what it costs, or to know ourselves more so as to be spiritually mature as Christians? Last week the Gospel challenged us to see what do we hold as precious in our lives. Where is our treasure? If we strive to have true wisdom in our hearts, when we approach Jesus, we will know what to ask for.

We can see that the disciples James and John had completely misunderstood how Jesus would lead people to the love of the Father and what it was to be ‘great in the Kingdom’. It wasn’t by wielding power and authority and crushing those who opposed the message. Just like the disciples, at times we too can get it completely wrong with what is expected of those called to lead and govern. We have huge expectations. It is not about power and control, barking commands and calling people to attention. It is about humble responsibility, encouraging discipleship and growth to claim the fullness of life. It is leadership imbued by the wisdom gifted by the Father through the Spirit. True greatness and leadership mirrors the greatness and leadership of Jesus. This past week, 11th of October, we recalled the anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. We also marked the liturgical memorial of Pope Saint John XXIII who at the spritely age of 76 convened the same Council. No-one expected that of an elderly pontiff but the greatness of this Pontiff lay in him truly living one of his titles as Pope, “Servant of the servants of God.” He did this in humility and we continue to reap the fruits of the inspiration to call the Council. Last weekend Pope Francis launched the Synodal Way in Rome and this weekend throughout the world, each Diocese will launch the Synodal Way at a local level. As each one of us is called to be part of this journey, let us pray that the model for the Church going forward will always be one of service in humility modelled on Jesus who is the only Way. We take hope in the words of the second reading from St. Paul to the Hebrews: “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.”