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.http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=2292
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
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.