Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Prophet Isaiah 53:10-11
Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
The Gospel of Mark 10:35-45
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
Oct. 17, 2021
Each of today’s readings speak of service and the servant who carries the weight of our sins and failures to live within God’s law. The readings speak of Jesus Christ who served and suffered for us so that our sins and failures would be forgiven. Adam and Eve committed the original sin which stained all our souls. There are only two people born who did not have that stain of original sin. They are Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. It is through our baptism, in a manner very much similar to the Baptism of Jesus Christ, that our soul is cleansed from original sin and made pure again.
Today’s first reading is from chapter 53 of the book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is contained in the part of Isaiah’s chapter’s 52 and 53 entitled “Suffering and Triumph of the Servant of the Lord.” Isaiah is describing to the Israelites how the servant of the Lord appeared physically. He was like a “sapling” with no “majestic bearing to catch our eye, no beauty to draw us to him. We held him in no esteem.” In other words, he had no physical attributes that would make him appear as someone special. He did not have the character or charisma of a leader. He did not stand out. Yet, in today’s reading, we see the Lord willing to give this very plain person the burdensome weight of the misdeeds of others. This ordinary person does not complain. To the contrary, he knows that by bearing the burden of others, as well as his own, it will lead him, and many others, to see the light of the Lord. Isaiah is giving the Israelites a description of what the Messiah will be. He will be the ultimate servant. He will serve all people. He will bear pain for our sins, our guilt, and our shortcomings. He endures all this knowing that there is a reward. That reward is the opportunity to walk down the pathway of eternal life to God in heaven. The Prophet Isaiah wrote and prophesized about 850 years before Jesus Christ was born. Yet, this small reading from his writings shows who Jesus Christ would be. The ultimate servant who sacrificed for all. The Israelites were expecting the Messiah to be an earthly king who would come to rescue with soldiers and chariots. They did not envision the Messiah among them, or those who followed them, as a nondescript person bearing their burdens and sacrificing Himself to save their souls.
St. Paul’s tells the Hebrew’s “We do NOT have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who has similarly been tested in every way, but without sin.” In other words, Jesus Christ, the servant who bore our burdens, knows what we go through because He has been there Himself. Jesus Christ is without sin, full of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. He rejected temptations. We are sinners who often succumb to temptations because we are weak. Jesus knows that. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And that is why he takes our sins upon Himself because He loves us. His desire is for us to share eternal life with Him.
“Teacher, we want you to do whatever we ask of you.” Those are words spoken by James and John that we hear in Mark’s gospel today. They did not understand that Jesus has already been doing that. He has been doing what they asked and even what they did not ask. Then they ask the big question. They want to sit by His hands- right and left- in the royal court. They think Jesus is going to be a king here on earth who will have all the benefits, pomp and circumstance that comes with being a king. Or the stature and benefits that come to those who have high places in the king’s court. That is why they want to sit at His right and left hands! Jesus tells them that while they can partake in baptism and communion with Him that He is unable to grant their request because it is not in His control. Today we know that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. We proclaim in the Apostles creed and every week in the Nicene Creed, which is our profession of faith.
The other disciples think James and John want a promotion over them and, truth be told, they do. This causes dissension amongst them which prompts Jesus to chastise all of them. He tells them that there are rulers who let it be known through their actions that they are rulers. His words are “…those who are rulers over the Gentiles Lord it over them…and their great ones make their authority over them felt.” Today’s corporate description would describe that as a “statutory ruler”, one who governs by law or edict. Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that is not how they are to be. That those who want to be first should be a servant, “the slave of all.” Jesus is telling them, and us, that to be great in His eyes we must be a servant to others. He tells them that He came not to be served but to serve. He is a servant leader.
A servant leader is the leader that people choose to follow because of the way they lead their lives and serve others. They are an inspiration to those who see them. That inspiration hopefully inspires them and others to join in service. We see examples of ordinary people being servant leaders today in all aspects of our lives. We see many opportunities where we can offer a hand to make someone else’s life a little better. The deeds do not need to be earthshaking or headline grabbing. They can be very ordinary acts done by very ordinary people done out of love for God and neighbor.
Our calling is the same one given to the disciples- to serve others as Christ served us. St. James, the same guy who wanted to sit at Jesus’ hand, was martyred and died for Christ. He also famously said “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear or has no food … but you do not give them the necessities… what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, it is dead.” (James 2:14-17).
We have been challenged. How will we put this into action? Let me paraphrase Pres. John F. Kennedy” …Ask not what God can do for you but what can you do for God.” We all encounter situations that can help someone. It could be as simple as helping an elderly person with a walker navigate a step in a parking lot or cross a street. It could be as a volunteer at an elderly center or at an outreach program helping disadvantaged people. It could be right here as a PRE-teacher or youth group advisor. There are numerous ministries here and around us that can always use volunteers. Each of us has talents. Find a way to help that uses your talents. God has told us to use them and not bury them in the ground. In a couple of weeks, we will have the “Feed My Flock” day to package food for the families in Sierra Leone who travel long distances for health care. It is an opportunity to help others. You can do it as a family activity. You will be an example of faith and charity that we, as Catholic Christians, want, and are expected, to project.
We have many young families in our parish with small children. That means the initial investment in the next generation is already in our pews today. Start there by being a servant example. Show them love for neighbor. A good financial advisor will tell you that all good investments need to be monitored and adjusted according to changing times or personal situations. They will recommend a rebalancing of your portfolio from time to time. That rebalancing need is also applicable to our spiritual life and well-being. In fact, those are the things that will determine our eternal life well beyond our earthly life. Treat your faith life as if it were your 401k. Your faith life is more important. It is eternal.
Again, our challenge is this- how will we follow Jesus Christ as a servant? NOT will we follow Him as a servant. God Bless You