To Lay One's Life For Others

10-17-2021Weekly ReflectionFr. Anthony Okolo, C.S.Sp

The first reading from the Prophesy of Isaiah and the Gospel of Mark calls our attention to the fact that true greatness is rooted in service to others. Jesus exemplifies this when He says I have not come to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many. The second reading tells us that the Son of God was not afraid to come down to our human level. He demonstrated the depth of His love by sharing with our human condition. Thus, we should be confident to approach Him as we are without any shame or fear since He is not afraid to call us His brothers and sisters.

The reading from the Gospel of Mark presented to us today is also told in Matthew’s Gospel, specifically in Mt 20:20-28. One revealing difference in the account of the two stories is that Mark tells us that it was James and John who made the request to Jesus while in Matthew’s account it was their mother. The reason is probably that Matthew, writing twenty-five years after Mark has written, did not want to present James and John as people of worldly ambition. To conceal this aspect of their human nature Matthew puts it in the mouth of their mother.

William Barclay, a Biblical scholar, says that this passage of Mark’s gospel is one of the most revealing passages of the New Testament. It reveals a lot about the person of Jesus Christ and the apostles. The apostles are men with all the human weaknesses and thus thinking in human ways. They were more focused on personal ambition, success and reward without any thought of sacrifice. The passage reveals that the apostles completely failed to understand their master Jesus. The height of their lack of understanding was the time of the request by the apostles. The request of positions at right and left side of Jesus was made at a very critical moment of Jesus’ life when He was talking of going to Jerusalem to die. The anger of the other ten apostles is evidence that they too were interested in the position as James and John.

However, Jesus was patient and never lost patience with them, but rather was able to accommodate them in spite of their worldly ambition. He still believed in them and trusted in them that they would at last become good disciples. This tells us that Jesus does not write anyone off, but embraces each person with open arms once we come to Him. May we never write people off, but like Jesus learn the act of kindness and patience. May we never write ourselves off since Jesus never writes anyone off.

He loves us in the same way despite our own weaknesses, faults and fragility. For Jesus’ true greatness is found in service to others, and not in lording it over others. Jesus teaches the value of patience and at the same time calls us to see service as means to achieve greatness. We serve others when we give our time, energy and talent for the good of others. We are at the service of others when we take certain volunteer commitments in the church and in our local community. Service should not be understood to mean menial jobs as the types done by servants, but service can be any noble and unselfish acts done for the interest of the others. It could be our daily tasks taken as God’s will for us. It is a profound truth that whenever we do our daily task with a great sense of diligence, dedication and justice, we serve others well.

Fr. Tony Okolo