Pastoral Sharings: "Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS  
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for October 18, 2015

I suppose one of the lessons of life is to be slightly wary of anyone who asks you to do them a favor. If the favor was easy to grant then they would just ask what they want outright and not require a promise in advance. 

Most often when people ask for a favor they are just employing a polite preamble to their request and mean nothing by it, it is just a manner of speaking. 

But sometimes when a person very formally asks for a favor, just as James and John do in today’s Gospel, they do so because what they want is difficult or impossible for you to grant. That’s why they are asking you to commit yourself in advance.

In this case Jesus very wisely doesn’t say yes or no but simply asks them what they want. 

It turns out that they want the biggest favor anyone could possibly ask for; they want seats immediately on the left and right of Christ when he comes into his glory. They are giving vent to their own unbounded ambition and asking the utterly impossible. 

This is cheek of the very highest order! No wonder the other Apostles were angry with them! 

And it shows that these two disciples, who were among the very first to be called by Christ and who form part of his inner circle, have completely and utterly failed to understand what Jesus has been teaching them for months.

In the immediately preceding paragraph Jesus made the third very explicit prediction of his passion and it is clear that these two Apostles missed the point here too. 

They fail to understand the nature of the Kingdom and they fail to understand the way to get there.

The Kingdom is about the very antithesis of power and authority; in the Kingdom the poor and lowly are lifted up, the weak become strong, the very opposite of the values of this world. 

And the way into the Kingdom is not the road of worldly ambition and glory but the way of love, sacrifice and suffering. 

Jesus points this out to them very clearly by asking them if they can drink the cup that he will drink. James and John blithely reply that of course they can, but we know that they haven’t the least notion of what this will involve.

Actually Jesus is remarkably patient with James and John unlike their confreres. I’m sure anyone else would have been a lot sharper with them. Nevertheless this question, ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink?’ draws them even deeper into their error. 

This constant misunderstanding of Jesus’ mission and the nature of the Kingdom goes on through the entire period of his public ministry. And most famously at the most crucial moment of his death on the Cross the Apostles abandon him completely, with the interesting exception of John, who remains at the Cross together with Mary the Mother of Jesus. 

In the end, of course, they do drink the cup that Christ drinks. In fact James was the very first of the Apostles to be martyred. He was beheaded by Herod Agrippa in the year 42 AD. John was the only Apostle not to be martyred and lived to a great age but he too suffered many persecutions and undoubtedly also drank the cup of suffering. 

This leads us to the important question of the Christian attitude to suffering, something which is an obstacle for many unbelievers. People often ask you the question: If there is a God, how can he allow the innocent to suffer? 

This is indeed a difficult question, however the assumption that usually lies behind it is that suffering has no meaning or if it has it is entirely negative. What those who ask this question betray is a lack of understanding of the concept of sacrifice, something that is at the very heart of Christianity. 

We understand that sacrifice willingly undertaken is an expression of love. But sacrifice also must always involve some privation or suffering otherwise it is not a sacrifice at all. We voluntarily undergo suffering for a higher end.

Occasionally when I worked in a women’s prison I come across a mother who was doing time for her daughter.  

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the original event (and usually it is something very wrong) the mother might confess to the police that she committed the crime so that her daughter can go free in order to be with her own children who are at a very critical age and need the care that only a parent can give. 

She unhesitatingly makes the sacrifice of several years of her own life for the good of her daughter and grandchildren. 

Now that might be a particularly dramatic example, but most parents routinely make huge sacrifices for their children. And later in life the children often also go to great lengths to care for their parents in their vulnerable last years. Most people instinctively understand sacrifice and are prepared to undergo a great deal of suffering and hardship for the good of those they love. 

Jesus did the same; he loves us so much that he gives his life for us. He is the Son of God; he is entirely innocent and deserves nothing of what was dished out to him by mankind. Yet, he chooses to drink this cup of suffering on our behalf, to redeem us from our sins, to redeem us from a punishment we undoubtedly deserve. 

We do not, indeed we cannot, replicate Christ in the manner of his death. But we can accept the hardships and struggles of this life and offer them to God in imitation of the sacrifice Christ made. 

We can take any pain or hardship and through an act of love accept it as our share in Christ’s suffering. In this way our sufferings are transformed and filled with meaning. 

Another important thing to take into account is that our sufferings ultimately bear fruit. Christ’s sufferings brought the incomparable benefit of salvation for the whole human race. But our sufferings too bring benefit to us and those we love. 

We know that love is a force which extends far beyond the limits of this earthly life; as St John himself tells us, ‘Love is eternal.’ And since sacrifices are essentially acts of love their fruits extend into eternity and ultimately bring us to the joy of heaven. 

James and John show here how venal human beings can get; and yet because of the sacrifices they made later in life and because of the love Christ showed them they undoubtedly reached the goal of heaven. 

Perhaps they did not make it to precisely the two seats they asked for, but they have achieved eternal joy in God’s presence nonetheless.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
October 18, 2015

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Authority and Service

James and John had it all wrong.  They wanted authority.  They wanted to sit at the right hand and left hand of Jesus when the Kingdom of God was established on earth.  They wanted to lord it over others.  They wanted to be powerful and feared because of their power. They looked forward to being in authority. 

They had it all wrong.  In the Kingdom of God, authority would come through service, not through power.


Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 35–45
Gospel Summary

James and John ask that when Jesus enters his glory he would grant them positions of honor and power. Jesus responds that they do not understand the cost of what they are asking. When the ten hear about the ambitious request, they become indignant. Jesus then summons the Twelve and reveals the meaning of the divine mission for the kingdom that he has come to fulfill. Those who are rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them and make their authority felt. Among his disciples, however, whoever wishes to be great will become a servant, and whoever wishes to be first will be the slave of all. Then follows perhaps the most radical and most revealing saying of Jesus about himself and about discipleship in the entire gospel: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time,

Year B—October 18, 2015

Two disciples from Jesus’ inner circle make a request that irritates the others but allows Him to reveal one of His kingdom’s greatest mysteries. What is it?

Gospel (Read Mk 10:35-45)

St. Mark tells us about a bold moment when James and John (two of Jesus’ closest friends, the other being Peter) ask “that in Your glory, we may sit one at Your right and the other at Your left.” Recall that in St. Matthew’s Gospel, their mother was with them, too (see Mt 20:20). It is interesting to watch Jesus respond to this request. First, He says, “You don’t know what you are asking.” Yet, surely James and John believe they do. Jesus asks of them:


Year Of Mercy, Year Of Extraordinary Graces

In less than two months, thanks be to God through the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Church will be passing through the threshold of an extraordinary year of grace—The Year of Mercy.

The year of mercy will start on one of the most important Marian Solemnities in the Church Liturgical Year—the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  This most sublime Marian Feast teaches us one of the most important Marian privileges: the reality of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.


What Our Lady Can Do with a Little Bag of Beads

The Miraculous Closing of the Last Abortion Facility in Corpus Christ, Texas

For many years the pro-life community of Corpus Christi, Texas and surrounding areas prayed in front of the last remaining abortion business left in the town. There were countless novenas and Masses offered along with visitations of a relic from the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Women and men spent many hours in silent prayer standing on the sidewalk at the busy intersection of Morgan Avenue and the Crosstown Freeway.


15 Super Promises of Our Blessed Mother for Faithfully Praying the Rosary

Some people make promises that are too good to be true. But not our Blessed Mother. When she makes a promise, it is absolutely 100% true and worthy of belief.

The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on Oct. 7 — indeed, all of October which is celebrated as the month of the Holy Rosary — is a perfect time to remind ourselves of her 15 in-and-out-of-this-world promises she made to those who pray the Rosary faithfully.

Or to learn about them for the first time. And take our Blessed Mother at her word.


Front Row With Francis: How the Family Evangelizes

What is the best social network for the New Evangelization?  Is it Facebook or Twitter?  Or perhaps Instagram and Pinterest better reflect our modern lives?  Or are you a Snapchat aficionado?  Forget it, Pope Francis just rebooted this conversation.  At his Wednesday General Audience on October 7, 2015, he revealed his social network of choice for evangelization: the family.

“When Jesus called Peter to follow him, he told him that he would make him a ‘fisher of men’,” Francis recalled, “and for this, a new type of nets is needed. We could say that today families are one of the most important nets for the mission of Peter and of the Church.”


3 Simple Steps to Reclaim Your Family Life

Moms and dads, I want to let you in on a secret. You don’t need permission from your children’s coaches, teachers, youth ministers, scout leaders, etc, etc, etc, to have a family life. All those people have to ask YOU permission to borrow your kids. NOT the other way around.

At my wife and my recent presentation at the World Meeting of Families, the above statement earned an unexpected ovation. In our talk, we asserted the completely counter-cultural and Catholic idea that family life, itself, is an activity and not an accessory. We are used to having a family life but working  at everything else; school, sports, work, lessons, you name it. We have time for everything except working, praying, talking, and praying as a family. Worse, we have all come to accept this as normal and necessary when it is anything but.


The Psalms Brings Us to the Cross

Planted near running waters, the tree never thirsts, always bearing fruit in season, forever flourishing.

Psalm 1:3 paints an image of utter tranquility in describing the righteous man. It seems a world away from the bloodied scene at Golgotha, where the body of a dying man hung on dead wood, his hands and feet pierced by unfeeling iron, his thirst never quite slaked, and his very life slowly draining out of Him.

Yet it is exactly to the cross that some Church Fathers believe Psalm 1:3 points, seeing in the image of the tranquil tree a foreshadowing of the cross. (The technical term is a ‘type.’)


Some Hard Spiritual Truths That Will Set You Free – A Meditation on a Teaching by St. John of the Cross

I am in Avila today, meditating on the great teachings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. The following is a re-post of a blog I wrote two years ago:

In this post I would like to ponder some hard spiritual truths that will set us free.


“A saint whose capacity to forgive shames most Christians”

Listers, “what does a Catholic approach to Scripture study look like?” This is the question Dr. Steven C. Smith takes up in his work 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study: The Word of the Lord. The book strikes an excellent balance between academic insights and a tone/format that is easily accessible to the everyday Catholic. His Eminence Cardinal George comments, “this is a helpful book at a time when the relations between Scripture and Tradition and Scripture and Divine Revelation are background for many other conversations in the Church today.”


“A saint whose capacity to forgive shames most Christians

St Maria Goretti showed no hesitation in forgiving her killer – and later appeared to him.

Presently America has the honour of having the relics of St Maria Goretti tour from church to church, the virgin-martyr born 125 years ago this month.

Poverty had a vice-like grip on St Maria Goretti’s family. When she was six, her parents lost their farm and had to up sticks and earn a meagre living working for other farmers. Following the untimely death of her father, Maria, her mother and siblings moved again, and not begin able to afford a house of their own, had to share with the Serenelli family, which is where little Maria Goretti got to know their son, Alessandro.


Loving the Elderly Requires the Blessing of Presence

Elderly persons who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s are “living in a world that gets dimmer and dimmer,” and the steps their loved ones can take to make their lives brighter will make a difference, said Janet Smith, a moral theologian, who spoke at a Sept. 23 talk at the World Meeting of Families Congress in Philadelphia.

With affection and humor, Smith shared insights and stories of caring for her 89-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia, in her talk entitled, “Loving the Elderly.” She identified ways to be sensitive to the needs of sufferers, along with practical tips for caring for them — and the caregiver.


The Impractical Catholic’s Guide to Infallibility

There are two common and distinct approaches to the question of the infallibility of the Church’s teaching authority. Non-Catholics deny that any human person or institution can be infallible in any meaningful way. Many Catholics, by contrast, hold that the Church can and does teach infallibly on matters pertaining to faith and morals — except when she teaches something they don’t want to believe.

Infallibility is at the same time one of the most controversial and least understood dogmas of the Catholic Church. Even people who do understand infallibility argue over what teachings it covers and doesn’t cover, while others make errors of distinction between dogma, to which infallibility does apply, and discipline, to which it does not.


The Spirituality of Waiting Around

“Time,” the man said, “is God’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.” Another way of looking at the same thing is Arnold Toynbee’s remark that some people think “history is just one damned thing after another.”

As Christians, we believe that time, history, and the sequence and interplay of events in human affairs is not merely one damned thing after another but is, like all created things, grist for grace. God doesn’t just bless things and sacramentalize them; He blesses time itself and makes it sacramental, too. He doesn’t just hallow spaces in space like temples and churches; He hallows spaces in time (like Sabbaths and feast days).

The Golden Rule In The Workplace

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” – Jesus (Matthew 7:12)

The Golden Rule. We can all repeat it to others, and we are quick to point out when someone violates that rule, but how much conscious effort do we spend trying to apply it on the job? What type of ownership do we take of this tenet of our faith?

Each of us knows how things at work are when the Golden Rule is not applied. Unfortunately this occurs all too often. It is like many adults forget the Rule at the door or think it only applies to kids at Sunday school.

Now take a moment and imagine how our companies, industries and culture would benefit from a more intense application of the Lord’s directive. Start by considering how you want to be treated in the office or on the job site:


What Do (Catholic) Women Want?

Sigmund Freud is remembered for many reasons, but one of his most quoted remarks is this: “The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?'”

I believe that prayerful Catholic women hold great power with God, and as they awake to that intercessory power and mobilize their great intelligence, piety, and love of family and marriage, they will overcome and conquer the Evil Empire that abuses them and their families throughout what was once the Catholic West.


Thinking Twice about Hell

I still vividly remember the nuns who taught my elementary CCD classes, and the impression they made on me and my fellow students. They hammered the implications of the Ten Commandments into us, as well as the consequences for disobedience, with a heavy seriousness that made its mark on my memory. Our pastor, Father (now Monsignor) William Carr, was likely surprised to hear the confessions of so many 8-year-olds begging forgiveness for the sin of adultery. After our lesson on the 6th commandment, I’m sure we all believed ourselves to be in violation of Jesus’s teaching about adultery delivered during the Sermon on the Mount, and, though we might have been a little fuzzy about what lust really was, we were made sensitive to the fact that through it we were doomed to incur guilt in one way or another. While scrupulosity is a real disorder, which for some may be rooted in the hyper-rigidity of their formative catechesis, I suspect that many more suffer from a lethargic view towards sin and judgment, perhaps caused in part by the hyper-laxity (or non-existence) of religious instruction.

Do Exorcism Movies Give Satan Too Much Credit?

Before arriving at the most exciting part of exorcism (theology) let’s do some comparison of world religions (philosophy.)  A couple sentences should be enough for us to understand the differing views of good and evil.  In Eastern religions, like Taoism, evil and good are co-equal forces that balance each other in order to keep the universe in tension:  black/white, good/evil, earth/sky, woman/man, etc.  However, in Judaism and Christianity, evil is only the deprivation of good, just as darkness is the lack of light.


Every Life Is Worth Living

October is Respect Life month in the United States. It begins a new, year-long cycle of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Respect Life Program. The theme for this year’s Respect Life Program is “Every Life is Worth Living.” What an appropriate theme in light of many current events including the continued release of undercover Planned Parenthood videos, declarations of children as “incompatible with life,” and the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in California. This theme provides us a thought-provoking lens through which to consider the worth of a human life. Indeed, society offers us many other ways to value human life which has manifested itself in current events.


‘It’s Truly a Miracle’ — Kidnapped Syrian Priest Escapes from ISIS Clutches

HOMS, Syria — A Syrian priest captured by Islamic State (ISIS) militants in May thought he would die for his faith. Now, he credits the Virgin Mary and the help of a Muslim friend for his escape.

“This is the miracle the Good Lord gave me — while I was a prisoner I was waiting for the day I would die, but with a great inner peace,” the Syriac Catholic priest, Father Jacques Mourad, told Italian TV 2000. “I had no problem dying for the name of Our Lord; I wouldn’t be the first or the last, just one of the thousands of the martyrs for Christ.”


Missionaries of Charity Stand Firm on Decision to Withdraw From Adoptions

NEW DELHI — Indian Church leaders and other prominent Christian and political leaders have endorsed the unprecedented decision of the Missionaries of Charity (MC) congregation founded by Mother Teresa to withdraw from the government-controlled adoption process in India, in order to protest objectionable clauses in its new adoption policy.

The MCs object to controversial provisions like granting adoption rights to single parents (separated, divorced or unwed mothers) and giving prospective parents the freedom to select child of their choice from the adoption centers.


Looking for Transcendence in All the Wrong Places

The dictionary defines transcendence as “existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level.” For all human beings, self-transcendence is a constant and profound spiritual need. We only learn about the world, about things, by reaching out with our senses. But contrary to widespread assumptions in our culture, sensory experience alone will never satisfy beings constituted as we are, who seek truth, beauty, love. We reach out to other people and grow inestimably in the process. The richest part of our human growth comes from this kind of reaching out to others, and ultimately to God.


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