TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
The Gospel passage, Mark 10:35-45, that we read today comes immediately after Jesus has told his disciples (for the third time) that he was about to be put to death. He did not spare them the gruesome details of his impending passion and death, but he also told them that he would rise again. This seems to be the only part that the brothers James and John were able for. They pass over the suffering without a word, but focus on what they could hope to gain. They ask Jesus for a favour. They want to be seated on his right and left when he enters into his glory. Did they imagine that this would somehow be an earthly experience? Jesus tells them very clearly that they have not understood. They will surely experience persecution and pain as he will. Are they ready for it? They say they are. It will happen, he replies. But as for sitting on either side of him, he says, this is not for him to decide. The places they are asking for are reserved for those who have been allotted them. The rest of the apostles hear about this and are annoyed with the brothers. Why? Did they all want to be seated by Jesus? Jesus gathers them around him. He explains that earthly rulers “lord it over” their followers. The twelve are not to be like that. They are not to “make their authority felt” but to be as servants, as slaves, to those to whom they are sent. And, like Jesus, they are to be ready to give their lives as a ransom for many.
The First Reading, Isaiah 53:10-11, is brief. Written long before Jesus’ lifetime, it is part of a series of prophecies by Isaiah. The title Lord here refers to God, not Jesus. We see in Jesus the servant Isaiah refers to, who suffers for the sake of his people, willingly, offering his life for the people. The prophet says he will see his descendants, and have a long life. There was no awareness at the time of eternal happiness in heaven. What had to be done had to be done in this life. The Lord’s servant will suffer, but not forever, and his suffering will be of service to his descendants. He has taken our faults on himself when he has done his work he will see the light and be content.
Our Response is from Psalm 32. We place all our hope in our faithful God. He will rescue us from death, he will take care of us. We place all our trust in him.
The Second Reading, Hebrews 4:14-16, blends in with the Gospel and First Reading. This is a real blessing for us today. Jesus, the Son of God, our Saviour and our Lord, is revealed as the supreme High Priest. He has gone through from earth to the highest Heaven. But he is not far off. He is the reason we hold fast to the faith we profess. He knows what it is like to be one of us – he understands what it is to be human, to be weak, to experience temptation as we ourselves do. The only human who has never sinned knows what it is like to depend on God for help when in need. This is why we can have every confidence in him. When we go to him for mercy, he will be merciful. When we need the strength of his grace, he will give it. Blessed be God forever.