Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 21st October

Mark 10:35–45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came
forward to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever
we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”
And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your
left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are
asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the
baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said
to them, “The cup 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 hand or at my left
is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”


When the ten heard this, they began to be
angry with James and John.


Jesus called them and said to them, “You
know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it
over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among
you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and
whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man
came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”



The background of today’s gospel reading
was after Jesus had just given his disciples the third prediction of the
suffering and death that awaited him. This is the last prediction recorded by
St. Mark. After this prediction was given the third time, Jesus began his march
to Jerusalem.


However, these predictions fell on deaf
ears as far as his disciples were concerned. James and John came forward to ask
Jesus for the principal places in the glorious kingdom they were sure he was
going to set up when they reached Jerusalem.


Although their requests sounded selfish
and egocentric, Jesus was gentle with them because he knew that they had not
grasped that his kingdom was not of this world. He gently asked them would they
like to go through what he would go through. He implies that the path to glory
is through suffering and sacrifice. It seemed that even the gentle reminder of
Jesus could not bring them to see that his kingdom was not of this world. They
were blinded by the glorious things of the kingdom of earthly world, and they
replied with affirmation to Jesus’ question.


Of course the other ten disciples were
indignant that James and John should look for primacy of honour. Probably, they
did not mind the two looking for honour, but they did mind that the two wanted
to be superior to them. 


Jesus knew the feelings of his disciples
and he called them before him and explained that the leadership that they must
exercise in his kingdom on earth was not to be like that of gentile rulers who
lorded over their subjects. Rather, it should be a humble service of love. They
would be the servants of the Christian community, ever ready to help their
fellow men and women without counting cost and without expecting any reward on


The lesson that we should learn from
today’s gospel ready is that although our own natural inclination most likely
would be to react like the other ten disciples and become vexed with James and
John, whom we think they are selfish, we should be reminded of Jesus’ gentle
answer to the two disciples: “You do not know what you are asking”. This answer
shows us that ignorance of the nature of the kingdom Jesus was going to set up,
was the cause of their human ambition.


While no Christian today thinks that Christ
came on earth in order to make us wealthy, happy and prosperous during our few
years on earth, there are unfortunately many Christians who are unwilling to
accept Christ’s teaching that the way to heavenly glory is the way of the
cross. “All this and heaven too” is their motto. If we look around with open
eyes and mind, we would find the world we live in is not free from sins caused
by sinful mortals, and injustice.


With James and John, let us tell our Lord
that we are ready to follow him on the path to Calvary, and that we are ready
to drink the cup of sufferings which he drank and to be immersed in the sorrow
that he endured. Amen.