Wednesday 8th Week Ordinary Time Gospel and Reflections

Today's Mass readings are here

Gospel  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.”


Immediately after the story of the rich man in this encounter we see what discipleship of Jesus really means.

They were on THE road  to Jerusalem and we all know what that is leading to ; betrayal, arrest, a sham trial, torture and humiliation,  losing the disciples, the carrying of His cross, the letting go of his life in love and after His Resurrection.

The disciples have not quite reached this stage of discipleship yet. As Jesus steps out firmly on the road to Jerusalem, his disciples straggle behind, amazed that Jesus was choosing to go to Jerusalem. As far as the disciples  were concerned, going to Jerusalem was asking for serious trouble. Everyone knew the Jewish leadership was hellbent on framing Jesus. Jerusalem was the last place to go.

Jesus shows them he is under no illusion about the situation. Condemnation to death will come from the leaders of his own people but the carrying out of the execution will be the work of the Romans, the Gentiles.

Jesus is approached by two of his closest disciples, James and John, showing little understanding of all that Jesus had taught them so far. They approach him to ask a favour for preferred seating next to Jesus' throne in heaven.

“You do not know what you are asking,” Jesus tells them. They neither know the kind of King Jesus is going to be nor do they know the price he is going to pay to enter that kingship. 

This is clear from the next question he puts to them: “Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised in the way in which I must be baptised?” 

This is a clear reference to Jesus’ passion and death, the price he will pay to reveal God’s love for humanity.

Later in the garden of Gethsemane as the weight of his coming passion crushes his spirit, Jesus prays that the cup be taken away. 

The baptism Jesus implies is a total immersion and soon enough Jesus will be totally overwhelmed with the heartbreaking shame and humiliation of the crucifixion. 

Jesus is a suffering servant, the innocent Lamb of God whose awesome love for us enables Him to give up his life so we can live.

Do the two disciples realise this? Are they ready to go through this with Jesus on their way to the privileges and glory they are asking for?

“We can,” they confidently boast without realising just what is involved. In fact, with the rest of their companions they will scatter and disappear when these events overtake their Master.

Nevertheless, looking further ahead James would be one of the first martyrs of the young church. However, as to giving them the places of honour they were looking for, that was beyond Jesus’ power to give. “They belong to those to whom they have been allotted.” 

In other words, these places are not just for the asking; they have to be earned. They will be given, not to those who furtively ask, but to those whose love most closely approaches that of Jesus himself.

Not surprisingly, the other ten were highly indignant when they found out what James and John had done behind their back. They were not indignant at the audacity of the demand but more that  they had been taken advantage of. 

They wanted exactly the same things themselves !!

Following the same pattern as the other previous incidents, the prediction of the Passion and Resurrection is followed by a show of misunderstanding by the disciples.

Jesus patiently gives them a lesson on the nature of what  true greatness in his Kingdom consists of. 

In the “world” to be great is to have power over others, to exercise authority, to be able to control and manipulate people to be at your disposal, to use people to attain your ends. 
However, in Jesus’ world those are really great who put themselves and their unique gifts to promote the well-being of brothers and sisters, especially those in most need. The more people we can serve the greater we are.

‘Authority’ is not to control but to empower. And it is the role of anyone in authority to generate ideas, energy, creativity in those for whom one is responsible. 

In other words to serve those who have been entrusted to one’s authority. But it is a corruption of the word to become ‘authoritarian’ in such a position.

 After 2,000 years of Christianity it is a lesson practically all of us have yet to learn.

We choose to serve and we choose to be a servant.  
Bur Ron Rolheiser states the difference :
"When we choose to serve, we decide whom we will serve and when.
But when we choose to be a servant, we surrender the right to decide when and where we will serve. " 
Jesus, the Son of God , the suffering servant , the innocent lamb of God is set to  surrender everything for us.

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