(Audio recorded live, 17 October 2021)
Is. 53:10-11; Ps. 33; Heb. 4:14-15; Mk. 10:35-45
In light of today’s readings, one might say there are two types of people in the world: Those who follow their own will and those who conform their will to the will of God. The prophet Isaiah describes the Suffering Servant, but before doing so, establishes that “The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.” In other words, it was God’s will that his servant suffer, but not for no reason. God is not a sadist. Rather, it was God’s will that the Suffering Servant freely choose to make of himself an offering for sin. He says, “If he gives his life as an offering for sin….” Who’s sin? The sin of the people. What people? All people, but most especially those who were given to him. The Lord says, “through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.” The prophet spoke these words some three-hundred years prior to the birth of Jesus. Yet, as we hear these words and gaze upon the crucifix, we see them fulfilled in Christ.
Jesus is our High Priest, not only because he is the Son of God, but also because of the reality that he chose to become one with our humanity. He did so in order that he might experience the fullness of our human existence, the fullness of our earthly plight. He does so not vicariously but intimately by taking upon himself the same flesh and blood that unites us as the human race. And just as it was the Father’s will that Jesus suffer greatly on account of our sins, the Immaculate Conception of Mary provided a perfect, unstained entry for Jesus into this world. Therefore, what Jesus suffered was not because of his own sin, but rather, the sin of the world. The testing of Jesus, therefore, is not without merit, both for himself and us. Through his suffering he can sympathize with our weakness. By taking our sins upon himself, he can sympathize with our brokenness. And by his testing, he shows the world the redemptive significance of conforming our own will to the will of the Father.
James and John are not so much concerned with conforming their wills to that of the Father. In the Gospel, they demand that Jesus grant whatever they ask. In one sense, they are no different than the Pharisees, seeking seats of honor in the synagogues. They ask Jesus when he enters into glory to have them sit at his right and left. They were seeking their own will, their own prestige, their own glory. Jesus tells them they do not know what they are asking. This is often the case with the disciples, especially in the Gospel of Mark. So, Jesus gives them a new perspective, a new way of ordering their lives. He says, “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.”
If we can learn to serve one another in this way, how much easier would it be for us to serve God? It might even be easier for us to conform our will to God’s will. When we are able to bend to our neighbor, we are able to bend to our God. This Saturday was the memorial to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque. In 1675 St. Margaret Mary received a revelation from Jesus which included 12 promises to her and those others whom practice a true devotion to his Sacred Heart. This is what she had to say about devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
“[A]bove all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure. In order to preserve it there is nothing more useful than renouncing your own will and substituting for it the will of the divine heart. In this way his will can carry out for us whatever contributes to his glory, and we will be happy to be his subjects and to trust entirely in him” (Vie et Oeuvres, vol. 2).
This weekend marks the beginning of the 140th anniversary year of the Diocese of Trenton. Today is also the beginning of the Sixteenth Ordinary Synod. The idea of “synodality” is about “journeying together,” like the disciples on the road with Jesus. And perhaps now, more than ever, is a time for us to not only journey together, but to bend our will to one another. If we wish to be truly great, Jesus encourages us to serve one another. We do this by listening more than speaking, by assisting rather than avoiding, and by loving rather than fleeing from love. As we begin the synodal process, we do well to take inventory of our needs, but also the needs of others. By so doing we seek to serve, not to be served, and we model our lives after the life of Christ.
And so, as we turn to the Eucharist, the Source and Summit of our Christian Life, let us be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who is with us always, and let us listen to the voice of the Lord, who says to each of us, “What do you wish for me to do for you?” May that question resonate in our hearts as we seek to discern our needs and the needs of all who are journeying together on the path of Christ.