In times of pain, suffering, shame, disappointment, distress, failure and any other of life’s difficult and stressful times and moments we would do well to keep TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [HEBREWS 4: 14 – 16] clearly in mind. These few verses have been a regular ‘lifesaver’ for me – and I have frequently referred others to them. In addition, these verses have often been ‘the penance’ I have asked of folk in the Sacrament of Reconciliation – to read and reflect upon.

Start this reflection with a careful reading of the verses from Hebrews – and take special inspiration of the closing sentence. The translation I generally prefer translates our “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace” as “boldly approach the throne of our gracious God.” {New English Bible: Oxford University Press: revised edition 1972} This Sunday’s extract adds real emphasis to the importance of Jesus’ humanity as we read in the third paragraph of the reflection for the 27th Sunday.

For the moment let us also make our very own two vital facts. Firstly, the need for us to boldly approach our loving God and Father. We must be confident that we are able to do so. Are we always truly CONFIDENT when we ‘go to our God?’. If we are, then we are able to be bold – which makes us courageous and forthright. It is decidedly unhelpful (if not also a clear sign of a lack of real faith) to approach God-in-Christ under camouflage – with any form of pretence. We must know exactly what we are asking – and we must ask for what we need, not for what we want. In addition, it is vital that hidden in our request is not the unspoken fact that we have already made up our minds as to what we have already determined should be given. We must be totally honest and transparent – with ourselves as well as with our God.

Secondly, reflect on the difference between the two translations quoted above. Which do you prefer? I speak for myself in the preference for approaching our gracious God rather than the throne of grace. I do not have any sort of relationship to ‘a throne’ – no matter how grand and important IT may be. I do not believe in a throne. I believe in a person. This person I know to be gracious, and this gives me the courage to be forthright, honest and transparent. Anything else is not only unworthy of him but, more important, it is unworthy of me.

Against this background we should then be able to pray with TODAY’S PSALM [33 or 32] – “our soul is waiting for the Lord. He is our help and shield. May your love be upon us, as we hope in you, O Lord. “TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 53: 10 – 11] lends enormous support in all of this – and repeats in some real measure the message of our Hebrews reading. Jesus Christ was bruised and put to grief. He has made “himself an offering … and bears our iniquities.” What more do we need in order to be bold and confident in our approach?

In TODAY’S GOSPEL [MARK 10: 34 – 45] Mark continues to picture the disciples in all their weaknesses. We must face and acknowledge our own weaknesses before we make any approach. It is impossible to boldly and honestly approach if we take ourselves there, from a position of strength. Against the first three scriptures encountered this Sunday we should be able to (and must) accept that we approach our God from a position of weakness. He understands this, recognizes that he, too, had to strengthen himself for what he had to be and do.

James and John wanted what they did not need – status, privilege and power. They presented themselves to Jesus seeking what they had already determined should be. “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” As far as they were concerned Jesus had no option. The indignation of the other ten indicates that they were not a great deal better.

We should always characterize our bold approach by asking the Lord to do something TO us, not for us? We are in need OF him – that he will DO something TO us – give us the wisdom and understanding not only to accept the difficulty facing us but also, with him, to work towards finding the correct solution for, and attitude to, dismantling it.

We have to be people of FAITH, not superstition – believing in HIM, not magic.

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