Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

Readings: Is 53:10-11; Psalm 33; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45


MISSION SUNDAY 

World Mission Sunday, organized by the Propagation of the Faith, is a day set aside for Catholics worldwide to recommit themselves to the Church’s missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice. This year, World Mission Sunday is celebrated on October 18.

Annually, World Mission Sunday is celebrated on the next-to-last Sunday in October. As described by Pope John Paul II, World Mission Sunday is “an important day in the life of the Church because it teaches how to give: as an offering made to God, in the Eucharistic celebration and for all the missions of the world” (see Redemptoris Missio 81).

Mission dioceses – about 1,100 at this time – receive regular annual assistance from the funds collected. In addition, these mission dioceses submit requests to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples for assistance, among other needs, for catechetical programs, seminaries, the work of Religious Communities, for communication and transportation needs, and for the building of chapels, churches, orphanages and schools. These needs are matched with the funds gathered in each year. The world’s national directors of the Propagation of the Faith vote on these requests, matching the funds available with the greatest needs. These funds are then distributed, in their entirety, to mission dioceses throughout the world.

We have a great mission in life, to be like Jesus; may we be equal to the task!

“Every baptised person is called to bear witness to the Lord Jesus by proclaiming the faith received as a gift. Since Christ’s entire existence had a missionary character, so too, all who follow him closely must possess this missionary quality. As Vatican II stated: ‘The laity should cooperate in the Church’s missionary work of evangelisation, as witnesses and at the same time as living instruments, they share in her saving mission,’” says POPE FRANCIS!

Power, Authority and wealth do not change one; but only reveal the true person!

If we look at the enduring examples of greatness, we see that a true leader knows the way, goes the way and shows the way! Alexander was a remarkable leader because he stood by his men in battle. Albert the Great was an intellectual giant because he disciplined himself to study. Beethoven was a master composer because he struggled long hours to get the right note. Martin Luther was a great reformer because he persisted in spite of opposition. Archbishop Romero was great because he was ready to stand against the corrupt leaders and die for his people. Mother Teresa was great because she was able to give up the security of her convent life and open herself to the poorest of the poor. Mahatma Gandhi was great because he worked for freedom for his people and died practicing non-violence as a form of protest.

Those who really have power – share it; those who hunger for power – abuse it.

A simple test of character is the question: “Why?” Why does the candidate seek the power a political position holds? Why does the actor seek fame in Hollywood or on Broadway? Why does the business person seek wealth or the climb up the corporate ladder? Why does the person of faith seek a position of ministry? There is nothing intrinsically wrong with ambition in any of these fields. In fact, most people use ambition to better themselves and their surroundings. But the question must be asked: why do they seek? Do they want to wealth and fame and power for themselves alone? Or do they want to use these ambitions for the greater good? These were the questions Jesus asked his followers when the subject of ambition raised its head among the Apostles.

In the FIRST READING (Is 53: 10-11), we meet the image of the “Suffering Servant,” the one who would suffer for the good of the community. Through his suffering, God would reward him and his people.

PSALM 33 praises God, not for what he can do for us, but simply for who he is. God is God and, for that reason, deserves our praise.

In the SECOND READING (Heb 5:1-6), the letter to the Hebrews gives us comfort. We have a High Priest, a heavenly advocate, before God the Father in the person of Jesus Christ. Our relationship with him gives us the “inside track” to the Father.

GOSPEL (Mark 10: 35 -45)

There was once a farmer who saved an entire village from destruction. From his hilltop farm, he felt the earth quake and saw the distant ocean swiftly withdraw from the shore line. He knew that a tidal wave was coming.

In the valley below, he saw his neighbors working in the fields that would soon be flooded. They must run quickly to his hilltop or they would all die. His rice barns were dry as tinder.

So with a torch he set fire to his barns and soon the fire gong started ringing. His neighbors saw the smoke and rushed to help him. Then from their safe perch they saw the tidal wave wash over the fields they had just left.

In a flash they knew not only who had saved them but what their salvation had cost their benefactor. They later erected a monument to his memory bearing the motto, “He gave us all he had, and gave gladly.” This poor farmer finished first in the eyes of his community, but it cost him everything he had.

There are not many people in our world like that farmer. He willingly sacrificed himself that others might succeed. Most people do everything they can to better themselves, and think nothing of the people they step on behind as they climb to the top of the heap.

I think it is clear from reading the Gospels that our Lord’s disciples were anything but humble men. They were always in the business of trying to promote themselves. On several occasions, Jesus sought to combat that mentality, but they never seemed to get the message.

In this passage, we see selfish ambition in all of its ugliness. James and John come to Jesus asking for the top seats in his kingdom. Jesus uses this event to teach us all some valuable lessons about leadership, service to others and forgiveness.

A SPIRITUAL PATTERN

(Jesus uses His impending sacrifice as the ultimate example of sacrificial service. He sets the pattern all of His people are commanded to follow.)

A. The Prominence – The word “even” reminds us of Who Jesus is. He is the Son of God. He is God in the flesh. If anyone who ever walked on this earth should have been served it should have been Jesus.

He could have commanded legions of angels to do his every bidding. Instead, he walked many dusty miles serving those around him. He could have come to this world as a King and been born in a palace with servants and great wealth. Instead, he was born in a stable, in abject poverty. He did not come to be served, he came to serve.

If our God is willing to serve sinful humanity, we should be willing to serve as well. Some people think they are too good to serve others. Jesus Christ never thought that! He got down into the mud with fallen man so that he could lift him out and change his condition. May God give us that same heart to serve!

B. The Passion – The Lord’s passion to serve was such that he willingly took the place of a slave. The greatest example of that can be seen the night before he went to the cross.

When Jesus and His disciples finished their meal in the upper room, Jesus put a towel around His waist and washed his disciples’ feet, John 13:1-17. He took the place of a slave and washed the dirty feet of men who would run away before dawn. He washed the feet of Peter who would deny him three times before dawn. He even washed the feet of Judas Iscariot who would betray him in to the hands of his enemies that very night.

Jesus freely served those who would break his heart. When the next day dawned, Jesus performed the greatest service of all when he went to Calvary to die on the cross for sinners who hated him and wanted nothing to do with him.

Service was his passion. Service was his life. May that same passion grip our hearts! May we freely take the place of slaves and serve others for the glory of God alone!

C. The Price – The cost of service for Jesus was extremely high. It cost him his very life. Jesus willingly went to His death to save those who cared nothing for him. He suffered the shame, the pain, the humiliation, and the agony of the cross to serve lost sinners. He experienced the undiluted wrath of Almighty God to serve us. He took the place of a common criminal and was judged as a rebel so that sinners could be saved. He willingly entered into death so that others might enter into life.

Why did he do it?

— He did it because he loves me, Rom. 5:8.
— He did it because he hates sin, Heb. 9:26.
— He did it to satisfy God’s demand for a perfect human sacrifice, 1 John 2:2.
— He did it to please the Father, Is 53:10.
— He did it to set me free, 1 Pet. 1:18-19.

What is his reward for this kind of service? It won’t be found among men/women. The majority of humanity hates the name of Jesus and cares nothing for his service or his sacrifice. His reward won’t be found in the church. Most churches and most so-called Christians have no understanding of Who Jesus is or what he did.

Our Lord’s reward will be found in two places. First, his reward is in the changed lives of men and women who receive him as their Savior and live out his love in the world, Heb. 12:2.

His greatest reward is found in the face of the Father. Because Jesus served humanity so selflessly, God has promoted him to the pinnacle of glory and worship, Phil 2:5-11.

How did Jesus arrive at such an exalted place? It isn’t because he is God! He is there because he took the place of a slave. He is there because he willingly chose the lowest place of all and God elevated him to the highest place of all.

While you and I will never reach the same place Jesus occupies, the same principle that caused him to be exalted is at work in your life and mine. Here is what Jesus said, “for every one that exalts himself shall be humbled; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted,” Luke 18:14. The Word of God also says, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time,” 1 Pet. 5:6.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Communion in Spiritual Goods – (CCC 949-953)), God calls all in the Church to serve each other. For the Church shares its spiritual goods with its members. We, the Church, are one in faith, one in sacraments and worship, one in shared charisms, one in solidarity and charity. Our faith, our worship, the diversity of our spiritual gifts and talents, and the love we share all support one end, unity with Christ.

The Communion of Saints embodies the notion that all who are in Christ serve one another in love. True Christian leaders bring the sacred communion to life. For their ambition is not to glorify themselves but to evangelize. True Christian leaders bring others to Christ. Questions of fame, power, or gold are, at best, secondary.

Some Characteristics of Servant Leadership:

Being a leader in the church is never to be a force of personality, manipulation, or fear. It is to be a place of bringing godly influence and intention while earning that honour and respect because you truly love and care.

— A servant leader is about being humble! They are never to be negative, condescending, or scheming.

— A servant leader will have the willingness and enthusiasm to be encouraging and life giving to all of the people they touch.

— A servant leader will recognize that life does not revolve around them, but rather on relationships. Their focus and motivation are not on their own ideas, but whatever is on the heart of God on the behalf of others. Non-servant leadership is often characterized by pride, self-absorption, self-protection and self-interests.

— A servant leader will give priority to others and value their opinions, knowing that they can have a fuller view when they learn from others. They do not compare or criticize others.

— A servant leader is first and foremost loyal to God, desires to serve others, and is not concerned about serving his/her own interests, manipulating, or seeking personal gain or control.

— A servant leader desires to live in the nature of God; Love, grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, faithfulness, kindness, long suffering and truth.

— They are people who have been transformed by Christ, with faith as the core of their being, and fueled by Christ, not self!

— They are people who place the needs of others first!

— They are people who have eternal values and God’s timing in mind!

— They are people who place integrity ahead of ambition!

— They are people who see glorifying Christ and serving him as the measure of success!

— Servant leaders will have a deep sense of purpose that comes from God, with his direction, identity, and eternal destiny in mind.

— Servant leaders are meek (strength under control)! They are willing to challenge the system, ask questions, take risks, and, when necessary, they are willing to change.

— Servant leaders, above all, desire to pursue their Christian formation to become excellent both in character and spirituality.

— Servant leaders put down the desires of power, prestige, and possessions for the sake of service.

— Servant leaders think strategically, see the big picture, then see all possible options to serve others and glorify the Lord.

— Servant leaders do not seek power and or influence; rather, they are revolutionaries showing that the world’s ways are ineffective and unfruitful.

— Servant leaders know how to lead themselves and others in order to bring the church deeper into the heart of God so to worship and glorify him!

— Servant leaders are not willing to compromise truth just to be more effective!

— Servant leaders model the way, to get others to follow Christ and not themselves, empowering others to grow spiritually as the Lord leads them.

— Servant leaders do not compare or judge one another. They do not seek to become what they are not, nor cause division, strife or conflict.

— Servant leaders do not leave conflict unresolved or festering. They are proactive in avoiding potential problems in by keeping the vision of Christ on the forefront and seeking how all can work together more efficiently in building his Kingdom.

— Servant leaders will include the team and wise counsel in all major decisions and strategic planning for the ministry.

— Servant leaders promote the atmosphere of unity as well as diversity. They are also willing and able to deal with disunity and divisions before they can poison the community culture.

— Servant leaders remain vulnerable and willing to be challenged.

— Servant leaders never micromanage or manipulate others; rather, they exercise their power in constructive ways to serve others and empower them to be more effective and character-driven.

— Servant leadership is a team approach! The team knows that working together means giving without receiving, as well as growing spiritually, both personally and corporately!

— Servant leaders put people before any organizational vision or purpose statement.

— Servant leaders always tell the truth, stand for biblical values, and work to change what is not healthy in the church or community.

— Servant leaders know that harmony, unity, trust, and commitment come from a collaborating, encouraging, and safe authentic environment.

— Servant leaders realize they will face criticism, forfeit popularity and be vulnerable to public and private rebuke and gossip. However, they stand strong, because they know they do not stand alone. Christ is with them.

— Servant leaders are willing to listen to everyone, learn from everyone and not just the ones in power or ones who have the influence!

— Servant leaders listen; they never brag or boast, except about what Christ is doing.

— Servant leaders are extremely important! All church leaders need to be servant leaders, as they will set the tone for a community of servants.

— Servant leaders know that the effectiveness of their empowerment, training and supervising of the team will determine the effectiveness of the ministry and church.

— Servant leaders uphold and promote a vision that motivates, encourages, and inspires. They encourage cooperative objectives that promote Kingdom agendas that are never exclusive.

— Servant leaders know that Jesus walked the earth as a revolutionary. He did not conform to any religious or world system. Spirit led leaders deliver their message with tender confidence, controlled power and with passionate truth.

— Servant leaders are never proud and do not take themselves too seriously! They will not have inflated feelings about their importance or thrive on attention and admiration!

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It is service that will lead one to greatness! JESUS advocated service, so that all can become great in the kingdom of God. Service to other is
a virtue that is
closely akin to charity; it flows from love of one’s
neighbour.
JESUS came into the world to serve and not be served!

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Holy Father Francis’ Message for World Mission Day 2015
Chinese | English | French | German | Italian | Polish | Portuguese | Spanish

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Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.
 

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