Serra Club Bi-Annual Conference Mass
St John’s Church, East Melbourne
20th October, 2018
Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45
Often, it is said, when looking for a job it is not what you know but who you know that counts most. In today’s Gospel, we see two brothers, who belong to the innermost circle of Jesus’ disciples, trying to use their ‘connections’!
Their opening gambit seems a quite modest request: "Master, we want you to something for us." Jesus counters with another question: "What do you want me to do for you?" We should remember this question because it is going to come up again at next Sunday’s Mass. However, it is also a question we should hear Jesus asking us now. In life, what do I really want? Happiness, security, peace… or something else?
How did the two brothers answer the question? They had heard Jesus speaking of suffering, death and new life. They had recognised Jesus as the Messiah-King of Israel and heard him refer often to "his kingdom". So, they boldly asked, "Give us the two top places in your kingdom." As Mark comments: their request showed they had no understanding whatever of what Jesus had told them.
"Can you drink the cup I am going to drink? Can you be baptised with the baptism with which I will be baptised?" Jesus asks them. Jesus here was speaking of his passion and death. "No problem!" they glibly answered.
James and John position themselves to be influential figures alongside Jesus. Imagine how Jesus feels, as he listens to the request from the two brothers. Already Jesus knows that he must endure suffering and a cruel death. This is the ‘cup’, which he asks to be spared in Gethsemane. The brothers seem to have no problem at all about accepting this cup; do they even know what they are saying?
With these thoughts on Jesus' mind, the clumsy ambition of the two disciples leaves him dispirited. Yet still he teaches them, still he tries to get the message across: about how tyrants operate out of the same kind of ambition as James and John, and how the disciples must resist.
It is clear they had no understanding of what was to come. This is what Isaiah speaks about in today’s First Reading. He speaks of God crushing the Suffering Servant (Jesus) with suffering, as the way for him to have many heirs and live a long life. "By his sufferings shall my servant justify many."
That is the way they would have to go. They would sit with Jesus in glory, but they would do this by going with him all the way and not by any ‘connections’, or back-door deals.
Understandably, when the other 10 heard about this, they were very angry. So now, Jesus brings them all together and tells them his view of greatness and success in life. There is only one way to greatness and it is his way. Greatness consists not in what we have, or in what we can get from others but in, what we can give of ourselves to others.
The Second Reading from the letter to the Hebrews tells us today that in Jesus we have a "great" high priest. There are two commands here: ‘Hold fast our confession’, which is to persevere; and ‘Draw near with confidence which is to pray! They are both based on the truth about who Jesus is: Since Jesus is our great high priest, the Son of God, who has passed through the heavens, we must hold fast our perseverance. Moreover, since Jesus is a high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses, we should draw near to the throne of grace for help in our times of need. Thus, His transcendence to the right hand of God’s throne and His humanity are both essential elements of His unique effectiveness as our high priest. If we want to persevere through trials and receive His help through prayer, we must understand who He is.
Like James, John, and the other disciples, we have to hear Jesus’ words about where real greatness lies. It is a message that is not always easy to hear in a society like ours.
Serra International president Biscardi has called for a focus on membership for 2018/19. He affirms: ‘membership is everybody’s business.’ This fits in so well with what Jesus was trying to teach us all: Membership of the Church IS everybody’s business and we must persevere and pray for more labourers into the harvest as we move forward to build the kingdom of God here and now.
We are all called to be not only disciples and followers, but also apostles and missionaries. We cannot live our Christian faith fully unless we are sharing it and witnessing to it in our daily lives. Realising that Jesus is our servant is what helps us to be servants to others.
Furthermore, this is the model set for us by Saint Junipero Serra, who during his life placed his trust in God and His holy purpose and was able to overcome untold afflictions. Let us look to our patron, to obtain for us the grace to deepen our zeal and belief in what God has revealed. Remembering the lessons from our readings today, let us pray that God will strengthen our hope in Christ and intensify my love of Him in heart and deed.
The request of the apostles brings to light our natural desires to be approved of and rewarded in worldly terms. Jesus tells us his meaning of real greatness – service and the care of others!
I express my admiration and gratitude at what you all achieve.
My God bless you all!