|by Angela Lambert|
October 18th, 2015; 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Mark 10:35-45 NAB
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark’s Gospel centers on Christ as the Suffering Servant. It’s the shortest of the four Gospels but possibly the hardest message to swallow. Jesus repeats again and again that greatness in His kingdom is measured by how conformed we are to Christ on earth. Like James and John, we all desire to be conformed to His victory, His impressiveness, and His leadership. However, Jesus explains that conformity to Him means drinking the cup that He did – that of obedience to the Father and redemptive suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus’ Passion and death, Matthew recounts:
|And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” MT 26:39|
If this was Jesus’ reaction to redemptive suffering, we can take comfort that He understands our own weakness and fear in the face of intense pain or difficulty. We can also learn from Christ’s example that despite these feelings, He surrendered His will to the Father and allowed Himself to be strengthened by an angel. Christ didn’t do it alone and we do not have to either. In fact, Christ suffered to redeem us from our sins but also to be near to us in our own suffering so that we would not be alone. From my experience, and I think it resonates with many Christians’, Christ is nearest during the hardest times. In the second reading for today from Hebrews 4:14-16 St. Paul encourages us that:
|For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.|
St. Paul also says that Christ’s suffering and death are a “stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” I would go a step further and say that the Church’s teaching on Redemptive Suffering is even more of a stumbling block. A life conformed to Christ’s example of love, generosity, humility, and mercy means a soft heart open to others and therefore open to pain. Nevertheless, suffering endured and offered up for others has redemptive power. St. Paul also makes the bold claim that,
|Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. Colossians 1:24|
Although Christ merited all of the graces necessary for the redemption of all men, He has given us a share in His redemptive work in that when we unite our suffering to His those graces are applied to the souls of others. Christ could build His kingdom without us, but He has chosen to not build it without our participation. This mystery poses a stumbling block for us but it also poses an opportunity for a share in Christ’s greatness. Moreover, those who have endured suffering for the sake of Christ’s kingdom all affirm, as do I, that the Lord “gives us joy to balance our affliction” (Psalm 90:15). Those who share in Christ’s death, also share in His resurrection; and those who share in His afflictions share in His glory. Whenever you suffer, whether physical or emotional, try to offer it up in union with Christ’s. It has tremendous power. Lean in near to Christ and receive His comfort and strength.
- Reflect on a difficult time in your life. Consider how Christ can relate to your situation. Consider the gifts and graces He provided to get you through.
- Reflect on how “Pain is the price of love.”
- Why do we avoid love out of a fear of pain?
- Why is love worth the price?
- How does Christ’s example shed light on this?
- As part of the Mystical Body of Christ, we all benefit from the prayers and redemptive suffering of others. Thank God for the graces you have received from those you may not even know were praying for you!
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- If you are going through a difficult time right now, reflect on the painting above of Christ in the Garden and ask for Him to be near. Offer your suffering up for someone in need of grace or conversion.
- If you are not going through a difficult time right now, take 5 minutes to thank and praise God for His blessings.
- Pray for, and if possible, reach out to someone suffering.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015
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