Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle B

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time


 Mark 10.35-45

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve

The context of today’s Gospel reading is important for understanding the text. In the few verses leading up to our reading, Mark has told us that Jesus and his disciples “were on the road, going to Jerusalem”. Now for the early Christians Jerusalem was not so much the great city, the holy city, the place of the Temple; rather it was the place of the suffering and death of the Lord. Jesus was on the road to death, and the disciples were on the road following behind him. But even now, they still do not understand. Still they appear to be looking for a messianic coup that will somehow liberate the people from the powerful tyranny of Rome.

And when that great day comes and the Kingdom is established, James and John want to get in on the act; they want special places of status and prestige - next to Jesus himself. They have not yet grasped the message. Jesus has not come to make use of the power structures of this world but to turn them on their head. The way of Jesus is the way of the cross, and so for his followers, too. It’s a hard message to take on board. So, once again, Jesus has to spell it out – the way of the world, “lording it over them”, is not to happen among you. His way is the way of service, complete loving service even to the giving of his life as a ransom for all. It is this loving and generous service of others that is to be the defining mark of the followers of Christ. The Servant Lord demands a Servant Church.

James and John wanted status without the service; they wanted glory without first the cross; they were looking only to their own satisfaction and not the good of others. And that self-centred attitude, says Jesus, is not the way of his Kingdom. Some measure of self-serving is present in all of us, as is the desire for affirmation and recognition, but Jesus reminds us that, if we really want to live, we must go beyond living for ourselves alone. There has to be a higher goal outside of and beyond ourselves if we are to be both happy and fulfilled people and disciples of Jesus.