Sunday, October 18, 2009

Whoever Wishes To Be Great Must Be The Servant of the Others; Whoever Wishes To Be First Must Be The Slave Of All.

Today’s First Reading is taken from the Prophesy of Isaiah (53:10-11).

These verses from Isaiah are a prophecy of the mission of Jesus, who offered himself in sacrifice for the sins of humankind.

The notion of sacrifice, the death of one for the benefit of many was an essential principle in the religious practice of the people of Israel, in which a Temple priest sacrificed a lamb (or a pair of sparrows, for poor folk) to repair the people’s relationship with God, which had been bruised or broken by sinful behavior.

Since it is God who was offended, only one who shares divine nature can make reparation; since it is human beings who offend God by our disobedience, only someone who shares human nature can atone for our sins. Thus Jesus becomes, as we say in the Eucharistic Prayer, “the priest, the altar, and the lamb of sacrifice”.

Further, having offered his life to redeem us from the burden of our sins, he will see and rejoice in the fulfillment of his sacrifice in eternity, where “he will see his offspring during a long life” life without end in Heaven. And, through him, the will of the LORD – to forgive our iniquities – will be accomplished through him.

Today’s Second Reading is taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews (4:14-16):

We have a great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who has “passed through the heavens” to the highest heaven, where God abides. As we have seen already in the First Reading, Jesus, the eternally begotten Son of God, is qualified to make reparation to the Father. But, when Jesus came to earth, he shared our human nature, including not only our physical infirmities, but he was subject to temptation, as we are, although he did not sin, as well have done. Yet he took upon himself the burden of our sins, and died a terrible and extremely painful death on the cross.

Jesus is a great High Priest in whom we can place our trust. We can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, because Jesus sits at God’s right hand, interceding on our behalf. Through Him, we can receive courage in the face of trials, strength in the face of temptation, and forgiveness for our sins. Jesus has accomplished all of this by his sacrifice on the cross. All we need to is approach the throne of mercy with humble and contrite hearts, with confidence trust in the divine mercy.

Today’s Gospel is taken from Mark (10:35-45) :

The episode begins when James and John, the sons of Zebedee, ask Jesus if they can sit at the right and the left of Jesus when he comes into his glory. Jesus answers their request with a question of his own: “Can you drink the cup I will drink, or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (He was speaking of his temptation, crucifixion and death.) “We can”, they answer, and Jesus says, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the same baptism, but the places at my right and my left are not for me to grant.”

When the other disciples hear this, they are jealous and angry. They didn’t think that Zebedee’s sons were better than they were, even if their mother, Salome, was a kinswoman of Mary, mother of Jesus. Jesus has to teach them all what true greatness is. People in the world think that people who exercise power and authority are great. But in Jesus’ Kingdom, the greatest person is the one who is a servant to the others. The word “servant” in verse 42 translates the word “diakonos” in the original Greek. But in the following verse, Jesus goes even further, using the word “doulos”, which means “slave. Jesus says: “Whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all.” Jesus concludes by speaking of himself. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

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