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Friday, 19 October 2012

Reflection/Homily: Twenty Ninth (29th) Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B (October 21 2012)

Theme: Authority: Service and Sacrifice
I was once privileged to work as an academic dean in my minor seminary after my secondary education. One day, a woman and her son came to my office requesting that I promote her son who had failed woefully to the next class. I knew the woman was not a literate and never understood the meaning of her request. I explained to her politely that the son had no capacity at the moment to respond positively to the academic demands of the next class and that I had no authority to grant such requests and that I only prepare the results and present them to the rector for promotion.

Most often, we make requests that may be detrimental to us. Promoting that ignorant student instead of allowing him to repeat the class and learn was a way of adding more illiterates to our ignorant society. These types of vain requests are made out of selfishness because we do not understand their implications.

Such was the type of vain request made by James and John, the sons of Zebedee in the gospel reading (Mark 10:35-45). Jesus had just finished talking to them about his impending death for the first time and instead of contemplating on that, the two apostles were requesting for places of honour. They never understood their request.

Beloved friends, we might be tempted to condemn or criticize these apostles for their quest for
ambition/honour/authority, but on our own part, we are not free from such guilt. We live in an age characterized by a mad rush to positions of authority and inordinate ambitions. That is why today, Christians compromise their faith and values for worldly honours. Most of us do or are ready to do all sorts of evil just to achieve our inordinate ambitions, be it to secure a job, find a life partner, get a contract or an appointment, etc. We not only desire like the apostles but go any extent to make our desires materialize. The reason for this kind of attitude towards positions of authority is that we have failed to understand the true meaning of authority.

According to Jesus' social teaching, authority simply means service. That is to say that anyone in a position of authority is there to serve others and we should also understand that this service demands a lot of sacrifices and tolerance because accepting to serve implies drinking of the cup of suffering and pain.

For this reason, the 1st reading (Is. 53:10-11) presents to us for imitation the image of the suffering servant (Ebed Yahweh) which is a pre-figure of Christ who came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He was not tortured on account of his sins but on account of the sins of those He came to serve and save. Those in authority should learn to suffer or at least to be contented with what they have for the good of others in other to justify their service. The place where we exercise our authority is the land where we are sent on mission.

However, since we are in one way or the other in positions of authority no matter how little, what is demanded of us from today’s message is never easy – to shun inordinate ambitions and honour and to exercise our authority with selfless service and sacrifice. Our ego and personal interests might militate against our humble devotion to service and aggravate our inordinate quest for ambition. Perhaps, we may have done queer things to be where we are today or abused our positions of authority or indulged in vain glory or have preferred wealth, power, authority, etc to Jesus or fallen so deep that we may have lost the hope of rising. Then, we can always come back to Jesus because at the moment it is not too late. 

Therefore, the second reading (Heb. 4:14-16) gives us the reasons to come back to Christ. So do not let go of your faith in God despite your sins. Jesus Christ our high priest, redeemer and mediator is capable of understanding our weaknesses because he has been similarly tested in all ways though He did not sin. Therefore, instead of glorying in sin or being despondent, let us approach His throne of grace where we will find mercy and the grace to do better and ask for the right things when we are in need of help. God loves you and Happy Mission Sunday.

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