Homily 29th Sunday of Year B: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16 and Mark 10:35-45
A high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses
Today we celebrate Jesus the high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses. Two things stand out here: human weaknesses and the role of Christ our high priest!
There are so many human weaknesses that if we were to list them here we would come up with an encyclopedia. But let me dwell on the particular one hinted in today’s scriptures; namely the tendency for us to always wanting to be served by others rather than serving them. It is very common to always wanting to control or lord it over others!
This is an image of the suffering Servant of YHWH in the first reading. He was punished, tortured, slapped, and mocked. He bore the pains, the injuries, the sufferings in the spirit of service. Isaiah 53:101-11says, I will paraphrase, he gives his live for offering for sin so that his descendant may not only have long life, but so that the will of God promised our fathers, mothers, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Jacob, Leah, Rachel and Joseph may be accomplished. And through the sufferings of the Servant of YHWH many shall be justified and their guilt wiped away. No greater service is this than for one to die for his brothers, sisters and neighbors, which Christ the high priest eventually did on the cross.
James and John the two sons of Zebedee I believe were still evolving with regard to the fuller meaning of “service in the light of Christ.” They came to Jesus asking for position of honor in Jesus' glory. If James seats on the right, John will take the left or vise versa.
Jesus’ response is very instructive. Let me paraphrase. “Those who rule the Gentiles lord it over them. But it shall not be so among Christ’s disciples, among the followers of Christ. Rather who ever wishes to be great among you should take the role of servant- just like the son of man, the suffering servant of God who to serve and not to be served” (Mark 10:35-45).
It makes sense and its further instructive, when the church leaders consider themselves and play the role of a servant. The Holy Father, the Pope, bears the title the servant of the servants…” after the example of Peter and Christ the high priests, both of them who had their own challenges and share of trials.
Challenges that can easily sweep us away especially when we allowed ourselves to be consumed by selfishness, power mongering or unconscious over zealousness to dominate or lord over our neighbors and the weaker members of the society; Challenges that can sweep us away if we forget to see leadership roles as a call to service, be it in our families, governments, public and ecclesiastical positions.
But whatever our weaknesses are, let us always keep in mind that we have a high priest, Christ ever sympathetic with our weaknesses (Heb 4:14-16). Let us constantly approach him for love, mercy, grace, and timely blessings upon us, since we place all our hope in him (ps 33:22).