Christ, the Suffering Servant - The 29th B - World Mission Sunday
My dear bothers and sisters,
Today is the World Mission Sunday. On the message for this day, Pope Francis said that:
Mission is a passion for Jesus and at the same time a passion for his people. When we pray before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of his love which gives us dignity and sustains us. At the same time, we realize that the love flowing from Jesus’ pierced heart expands to embrace the People of God and all humanity. We realize once more that he wants to make use of us to draw closer to his beloved people and all those who seek him with a sincere heart.
The readings of this Sunday focus our attention on Christ the suffering servant, as the model of Christian leadership. In the first reading from Isaiah, the prophet sings about the suffering Servant who through his suffering, shall justify many, and bear their guilt.
Truly, through Jesus, we are not gaining the normal life span of a human being on earth, but eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Through the atoning Blood of Christ, the Heavenly Father will no longer remember our sins.
After the first reading, the Gospel of today leads us to discover Christ’s example as a model self-giving leadership in the Church. By taking on himself the role of a servant and redeeming us by his own suffering and death, Christ has turned all human ambitions upside down. "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.”
Repairing for his disciples, on the final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus says that there he will suffer and die. Far from expressing sorrow or sympathy, James and John skip the thought of suffering and move to the thought of resurrection and ask Jesus to let them sit at his right and left when he enters his glory. They want to be more important than anyone else! They want position, power, and status. Jesus answers that they may get what they ask for, but they certainly will follow his way of suffering.
My dear bothers and sisters, like James and John, we all fantasize about greatness, but very few make the sacrifice to achieve it. Jesus spells out the price: not puffing oneself up, but by accepting some deflation. Not by talking about oneself, but by listening to the other person. Not by using others, but by allowing oneself to be used. In a word, by becoming a servant.
"Whoever wishes to be great," says Jesus, "will be your servant." True greatness requires a man to become small - to put himself on the same level as the "little ones" - in order to bring out the potential of the other, especially the child. Like a servant, he sacrifices his own comfort. That true greatness means to become small, to become the servant of others.
The way of Christ is the way of being a servant to God and to others, done out of the gifts of love and abilities given by the Spirit. Serving others is the work of the Church. Serving others has nothing to do with being servile. It has to do with being a human being among other human beings, nothing more but also nothing less, loving them as Jesus does, with actions as well as words.
Martin Luther King, who was an American Baptist minister, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, said that: "Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
In short, let us proclaim the Gospel through our lives, fulfilling the lesson that Jesus teaches us today: 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. Amen
Joseph Pham Quoc Van, O.P.