Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, October 18, 2015:

Isaiah 53:4-12

Psalm 91:9-16

You have made the LORD your refuge, and the Most High your habitation. (Ps. 91:9)

Hebrews 5:1-10

Mark 10:35-45

Imagine being one of the 12 disciples; imagine the possible rivalries. Every so often, as with this Sunday’s Gospel, we see the very human side of the disciples.

Most of us, from the time we are little children, we want to be loved best in all the world. Unfortunately, many events happen to convince us that love is rare, and that if one person is loved, it means we must be loved less. Humans tend to see love as finite and to feel like there’s not enough to go around.

If Jesus was a different kind of leader, he might have decided to pit the disciples against each other, so that he could feed his own ego watching them compete for his favor. Those of you from dysfunctional families or Machiavellian workplaces have probably seen this technique in use.

Happily, we don’t worship that kind of God. We might expect Jesus to be a leader of comfort and compassion. We might expect Jesus to figure out a way to respond so that everyone gets to feel good about themselves and be assured that Jesus loves them all exactly the same.

We don’t worship that kind of God either.

Jesus reminds them that they don’t know what they’re asking. Again and again, Jesus tells his disciples, and centuries of believers to come, that the last will be first. Again and again, Jesus stresses that we're here to serve. Following Jesus isn't about self-empowerment. We don't follow Jesus because we hope to become rich. Other religions, like Capitalism, might make that promise, but not Christianity. Christianity is NOT just a big self-improvement program.

Sure, we might become better people, but not by the route that the larger world offers us. Christ tells us that we fulfill our destiny by serving others. It goes against most everything else we've ever learned. We're not supposed to look out for number one? We're not supposed to be most concerned about ourselves and our families? No, we're not.

You might feel as much despair over the need to have a servant’s heart as you did by last Sunday’s Gospel about giving away all our wealth. But here again, we can change our trajectory by taking small steps.

For some of us, if we really start to live a Gospel life, it will take practice and undoing of a past life of bad habits. Start small. Do good deeds for people that you like. Practice radical patience. Be on the lookout for all the people who need your smile or a kind word. Let other people take the credit for your ideas. Give away more money. Add some more prayer time to your day to focus on the needs of others.  Go through your day as the monks do, offering prayers for the world periodically throughout the day.
Ask God to show you how to have a servant's heart.

Maybe God will call you to heal others, like St. Luke, whose feast day we celebrate on October 18. Maybe we will have a different apostle as a role model. There are many ways to serve, and a vast world in need of our service.

Who knows where this path may lead? But we know that Christ calls us to follow it. By imitating Christ, we can change ourselves, and in the process, we can change the world.

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