29th Sunday Ordinary Time
A Homily - B Cycle - 2002-2003

First Reading - Isaiah 53:10-11
Psalm - 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Second Reading - Hebrews 4:14-16
Gospel - Mark 10:35-45 or 10:42-45

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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."  He replied, "What do you wish me to do for you?"  They answered him, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left."  Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"  They said to him, "We can."  Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared."  When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.  Jesus summoned the Twelve and said to them, "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.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

In our Gospel today, the Lord teaches His disciples and all of us a key lesson on the difference between power and authority.  In the Catholic way of understanding these two concepts, power is usually characterized as meaning have the capacity to force oneself upon another either in deed, word or thought.  It is something like brute force.  Authority, on the other hand, is something entirely different.  Authority is rooted in service.  Those who are charged with authority in the Church have a greater obligation to use it in service of others.  Our Lord teaches us that whoever wishes to be the greatest must be the servant of all and the slave of all.  He lived this maxim in His own life here on earth, especially by His giving of His life as a ransom for the many.  In fact, the Lord warns us in our first reading through the prophet Isaiah that service in the Kingdom of God will even mean suffering.

There's quite a bit of activity going on in the Church this week.  just this past Thursday, His Holiness, John Paul celebrated his 25th anniversary as the Vicar of Christ here on earth - an amazing milestone.  This morning in Rome, the Pope beatified Mother Teresa, putting her just one step away from the ranks of the canonized saints.  And, this coming week, the Pope will install 21 new cardinals.

As a Church, we also commemorate this Sunday as World Mission Sunday and if you think of the Pope, of Mother Teresa and of these 21 new cardinals to be installed, it should call to mind that fact that as a Church, we are on a pilgrimage back to the Father's house and that we are a Church that is very much on a mission - to proclaim the Gospel to the very ends of the earth.  And, as much as we have a mandate to go out to all the world, we also live with the realization that the Gospel needs to be preached in our backyard - in our families; in our schools; in our offices and among our acquaintances and friends.  Very few if any of us here will ever board a plane for a distant land to go work in the missions.  Yet, each of us here has a golden opportunity to proclaim the Gospel in all sectors of our society, especially a society that has lost its sense of sin and is increasingly less religious altogether.  We can do this.  We can ask co-workers or classmates to pray before meals or to study Scripture together.  We can take our grandchildren on pilgrimages to the many places in our region devoted to our Lady and to our Lord.  We ourselves can and ought to devote time each day to praying for not only missionary efforts abroad but missionary efforts in our town - to find those inactive Catholics or the unchurched to consider a return to or entry into the Faith.  This is not merely the work of priests and religious - every layperson, by virtue of their baptism has a mandate to promote the Gospel.  In doing so, we should also be mindful that our best homilies will be preached, not in word, but by the witness of our lives.

As I mentioned earlier, the Holy Father will beatify Mother Teresa today in Rome.  It was individuals like Mother Teresa who showed us that those who are truly great are those who are the servants of the rest.  There are persons in our midst who demonstrate some of the same qualities: the single parent who struggles to make ends meet and provide a Catholic home environment for their children; the grandparent who constantly prays for the conversion of her children and grandchildren; the individual whose spouse is lukewarm about the Faith and who makes extra sacrifices with the intention of that spouse's return to an active practice of the Faith; the young person who continues to pursue religious education and training in spite of the fact that most of their classmates at school think it's a waste of time and irrelevant.  It's that kind of witness that makes Christ present in the world and speaks to the hearts of those who are seeking the Lord in sincerity.  So, we see that the work of missionary activity is not so far away after all.

As we continue this celebration of Holy Mass, we give thanks for the gift to the Church that the Holy Father has been and remains to this day, and for those like Mother Teresa who have gone before us in the zeal of missionary spirit.  In remembering her life, we ask, "Why is Mother Teresa so appealing to so many a person in our day, Catholic or not?"  She wasn't particularly learned.  She never ruled a country or make vast contributions to science or the world economy.  She wasn't an entertainer or a pop icon.  Mother Teresa's life was so compelling because she was a clear example of someone who was so captivated by the Gospel that it changed her whole life in such a radically transforming way that she radiated the love of Christ to all around her.  Her immense charity was animated by an immense love of the Lord Jesus.  She wasn't a mere altruist or do-gooder.  Mother Teresa was first and foremost a disciple and her complete worldly poverty and yet her wealth in Christian virtue made her so real - such an authentic witness.  She wasn't worried about results - she was worried about fidelity and she provides us with such a powerful example of what can happen in the soul if we only let the Lord capture our very lives.

It is appropriate to end today with a saying she liked to share with her sisters, thoughts we ought to ponder in our daily lives:

    The fruit of silence is prayer
    The fruit of prayer is faith
    The fruit of faith is love
    The fruit of love is service
    The fruit of service is peace
            Mother Theresa, M.C.

May the peace of Christ, which is beyond all understanding enlighten our hears and our minds so that all who meet us may know that Christ reigns in our hearts and it is He who must be loved above all others.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

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