Those seeking Jesus willingly serve others

By  Fr. Scott Lewis S.J.
  • October 13, 2006
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B), Oct. 22 (Isaiah 53:4, 10-11; Psalm 33; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45)

Who was the suffering servant of Isaiah? Obviously it referred to an anonymous figure in the prophet’s own time — the sixth century before Christ. He was a figure whom others reckoned as a loser, for he appeared to be suffering needlessly. And yet there was much more than meets the eye, for he was a man on a mission from God of great importance to his people.

We must be careful with religious symbolism, for it is sometimes used to manipulate or control people. He was not a victim, for doing the will of God is not about gratuitous suffering or victimization. Being crushed with pain was not the will of God; delivering God’s message was.

The point of the description is that people failed to understand the higher purpose being served in the suffering. They judged only by the human aversion to pain, humiliation and death. The first generations of Christians gave this passage a second life as they applied it to the life and death of Jesus.

Is there more to this passage? It represents the pattern of selfless love, which is being willing to sacrifice one’s own time, energy and sometimes comfort or well-being for the sake of others. We have seen it in dramatic ways in the lives of many who have worked for racial equality, peace, the environment and justice.

The usual big names come to mind, the ones we regard as saints and heroes, but what about the hidden ones? The pattern is evident in a single mother working two jobs to support her children, as well as in university students who forego spring vacations to work for Habitat for Humanity. Those who go the extra mile to encourage and support those around them are on the same path. If we look carefully, the pattern is played out quietly in the lives of many people. Let us pray and strive to be one of them, for the very life of the world depends on that pattern.

We tend to think of temptations as negative when in fact they are God-sent opportunities to make choices and mould our soul. If suffering works in our lives in the proper way, it makes us much more compassionate and patient with others. Divorce, addictions, personal failures and tragedies can all serve a purpose if they render us wiser, humbler and more willing and able to reach out to others and encourage them in their struggles. Unfortunately, some become bitter, cynical or hard on others.

Jesus certainly paid His dues, for He experienced pain, fatigue, disappointment and betrayal. He wept tears; He probably wondered at times if it was all worth it, especially when so many failed to understand what He was about. But He always remembered who He was, and did not allow suffering and temptations to pull Him into despair or quick and easy solutions. We are never alone in our journey, for we have the constant companionship of one who does not judge or condemn but offers encouragement, strength and hope.

Self-promotion and jockeying for position is as old as humanity. Even those who are closest to Jesus are engaging in politics and competition, as the sons of Zebedee try to secure prominent places for themselves in the Kingdom that they believe Jesus has come to inaugurate. Notice their fixation on the word “glory.” Jesus has some hard words for them: in God’s Kingdom, the ladder to the top often includes suffering — maybe even death. Let the one who seeks greatness excel in love and a willingness to serve others rather than manipulation or self-seeking.

Not only that, those who claim to be disciples of Jesus should avoid models from the world — society — as a way of structuring and governing their communities. It is to be a community of equals rather than domination with generosity and practical love as the binding force.

It is a sad irony that later on Christians did exactly what Jesus forbade. They made the power structures of the Roman Empire and then medieval feudal society their own and “divinized” them in the process. Individually and as a church, the Lord continually invites us to rededicate ourselves to compassionate and humble service in obedience to the will of God to which His own life testifies.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location