Homily  29th Sunday of Year B: Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Isa 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16 and Mark 10:35-45
The Paradox of the “Giving” Suffering Servant!
It would be recalled that it was John F. Kennedy, one of the American’s Presidents who once said, “Think of what you can do for America not what America can do for you.” We could see Kennedy’s speech in today’s bible lessons. Scripture presents us today with the paradox of the suffering servants of God, Christ, the great high priest and the Son of man who invites us to think of what we can always do for our neighbors, subjects and not what our neighbors and subjects or parishioners can always do for us!
We heard in the 1st reading-- the 4th song of the Suffering servant of God (Isaiah 53:10-11), the sufferings of the servant of God. Here the servant was punished, tortured, slapped, and mocked. But, because he bore the pains, the injuries, and the sufferings patiently, he was paradoxically exalted and lifted up by God, his Father. Most importantly, the servant bore these sufferings in service for others. He gave it all, even his life. Also through the servants’ suffering many sinners shall be justified, their guilt shall be forgiven. The descendants and neighbors of the suffering servant shall prospers.
In the 2nd reading, the Letter to the Hebrews, unlike the Levitical high priests in the Book of Leviticus who offered sacrifices on his behalf, as a sinner, and on behalf of his community, the servant is of course, the sinless Christ and the compassionate high priest who offers himself completely for others. How many of us can offer ourselves completely for others! How many brothers can offer themselves completely for their fellow brother? How many sisters can offer themselves for their fellow sister? What about husband and wives, children and parents, grandpa and grandchildren like this high priest?
This high priest is the same Son of man in today’s Gospel (Mark 10:35) who came to give his life as a ransom for many and who was in the first place completely misunderstood by the two sons of Zebedee, James and John. We are told, they came to Jesus asking for position of honor in Jesus' glory. They thought, if James sits on the right, John can sit on the left. Very parochial. Very Clannish. Others might characterize them as selfish, ambitious individuals, focusing mainly on themselves and on what others might do for them, rather than seeking what they can do for others-- like the suffering servants of today’s readings. They also seems to be narrow minded, insensitive, petty, and unsure of themselves and short sighted! Completely the opposite of the giving and generous life style of the suffering servant!
The life style of the suffering servant, the great high priest, and the son of man in today’s readings challenges everyone. It challenges us to see Christian suffering in light of Christ's exaltation. It challenges those elected leaders who selfishly and constantly serve themselves rather than the community that elected them in the first place. It also challenges particularly, those religious communities, leaders, families, counties, states and nations who constantly seek for what others can do for them rather than what they can do to help their neighbors, subjects, parishes, dioceses- especially the poor, the sick, the aged and their less privileged neighbors- that Pope Francis has constantly place in front, back and center of his papacy!
Of course, the exalting- giving of oneself that the suffering servant reminds us of today may not necessarily be limited to material giving, but spiritual. Our prayers, our precious pastoral time, our infectious smiles, our generous compassion, our faithful and faith-filled presence, our positive body languages, our sincere love, and pieces of parental advice, can go a long way to strengthen our families, children, neighborhood, churches and societies at large!