You may recall that four weeks ago the Gospel extract recorded a similar incident to today’s extract, when the disciples (behind Jesus’ back) argued among themselves about who was the greatest. You may also remember that when the Lord asked them what they had been talking about“on the way …… they remained silent.” In that incident we observe that they were preening their own egos even when on the way. Their discipleship had so far not prevented them from being egocentric. Even so they were ashamed because they knew that such ambition was foreign to loyal disciples of Christ.

Now,

THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL READING [MARK 10: 35 – 45] tells us that two of them were still seeking status and power: “grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Note carefully how they seem certain that the Lord will, eventually, come into glory. They seek the glory but fail entirely to grasp or want what will precede the glory. They seek status and power at minimal, if any, real cost.

Do I seek (by means foul or fair) to be frequently seated next to the Cardinal at major liturgical celebrations? Do some parishioners seek (expect)the regular, public, approbation of the Pastor’s esteem …. to be one of the particular favourites (if not the special one)?

It is, for me, especially noteworthy that one of the two who approach Jesus in our Gospel extract is no less than John who is, apparently, known as a ‘favourite’ of Jesus. This favouritism finds its foundation in a few lines of one version of the Gospel which records that “Peter looked round and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following – the one who at supper had leaned back, close to him.” What is even more interesting is the fact that this particular Gospel verse appears in …… wait for it ……

JOHN (21: 20)! I have always found John’s personal testimonial and reference more than a little strange?! Why do none of the other evangelists record this special relationship?

Now, today’s Gospel reading tells us that even after the clear teaching Jesus had given in the earlier incident we have the two brothers coming to Jesus and making their request ‘in private’. Well it happened as it always does – the rest of the group eventually found out about it:

“and when the ten heard about it, they began to be indignant at James and John.” So we end up with unpleasantness within the community. Why were the others indignant? My honest opinion is simply because they had not ‘got in first?’. It may well be that each person is unique but this should not imply that I am so special that I deserve special treatment, affirmation, and reward. It is far more important part is to “hold fast our confession.” {see the SECOND READING – HEBREWS 4: 14 – 16}. This confession is best understood as the faith we profess.

This time around Jesus is much more explicit and challenging. In place of the children as an example (in the previous incident) he now talks directly to the Twelve ….

“it shall not be so among you ….. servant and slave of all.” We cannot hold fast to our faith if we are holding fast to our egos, senses of self-importance and illusions of grandeur. No servant or slave sits next to the master. Rather, he or she merely gets on with the job at hand, doing it as well as possible. However, the search for recognition still rears its ugly head at regular intervals. The Church, clergy, laity and parishes still, in many circumstances, have a great deal to learn.

Now take a good look at

OUR OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [ISAIAH 53: 10 – 11]. Here the prophet’s vision of the future is the person of the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Jesus is the image of what the disciple should be. “It shall not be so among you ….. servant and slave of all.” Jesus practised what he tried to teach the Twelve in today’s Gospel verses.

He is still trying, today, to teach us!

 

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