29 Sunday B: Not where you sit, but how you serve


Last Sunday, we heard about discipleship. Today its about being a missionary.

1. In a world of stars and stripes, titles and accolades, we have been told what matters is not where you sit, but how you serve. Not what you know but how much you impart; not what you teach, but how much you tithe.
2. The breakfast you make early in the morning so the children and your spouse can go to work or school is a more sacred and admirable mission than that of the missionaries who go out into other lands.
3. Your example, your practice of faith and your presence is as much a witness and missionary activity as the preaching of the gospel to the gentiles.
4. The daily cup of sacrifice and hardship, thankless chores, patient endurance, silent tears and unspoken grief are all part of the price of being a disciple.
5. Today, we must make a choice from "working long and hard hours at jobs we hate in order to make money to buy things we don't need to please people we don't like" to balance work and life, faith and wellness and achievement and enjoyment.
T.K.
*****
 Michel DeVerteuil
Textual Comments
There are two distinct sections in this passage:
–    verses 35 to 40: the encounter between Jesus and the sons of Zebedee; and
–    verses 41 to 45: his teaching on service.
The dialogue wit the sons of Zebedee is very dramatic, with plenty of significant details. As usual with gospel stories, fee free to focus either on Jesus or on the people who come to him.
youth prayer
James and John are typical of young, enthusiastic followers of any cause – very ambitious, but also very committed and ready for everything. Note how they are confident: they can accept the challenges, even if they do not see clearly what they entail.

The portrayal of Jesus is very touching: his respect for the young men, the way he takes them seriously, the way he challenges them and reassures them simultaneously. His humility is remarkable as he disclaims the authority to give final rewards.
As in last week’s passage, Jesus is the model for civil as well as religious leaders, and the two brothers can be the church community or the nation.
Verse 45 is very deep and can be read by itself. Enter into the metaphor of the ransom, asking yourself how this ancient practice of buying back slaves is lived today when people give themselves to the work of human liberation, with the life of Jesus as the model.

Scriptural Reflection
Lord, we remember with gratitude the spiritual journey we have made.
At first we were like the sons of Zebedee,
very anxious to become loyal and to do great things for you.
Truly we did not know what we were asking.
jesus looks lovinglyYou did not reject us, but rather guided us gently,
–    some of us through prayer and bible reading;
–    others through a guide who was Jesus for us.
You made us understand that spiritual growth
is setting out on the path of Jesus,
drinking whatever cup of suffering you send us,
and entering deep waters as he did.
As the challenge came, we said “Yes”,
and you certainly took us at our word.
Today we find that we are not interested in success of any kind.
We know that sitting at your right hand or at your left in your glory
is not something that any one can give us,
or that we can earn for ourselves,
and we leave that to you to allot to whoever you will.
Lord, we thank you for young people,
especially those of us who work with youth in schools,
church communities or families.
We thank you for their enthusiasm and their great desires.
Don’t let us become cynical
just because they do not know what they are asking.
Help us rather to be like Jesus and walk with them,
challenging them, but also reassuring them
that they can in fact make the sacrifices which their desires imply.
Lord, leaders are afraid to ask sacrifices of their people;
they like to promise great rewards in some future kingdom
even though these rewards are not theirs to give.
opening hearts to othersWe pray that they may be like Jesus, honest with their people.
But of course, if they ask a sacrifice of their followers,
they must go that way themselves,
the cup they ask others to drink
must be one they drink themselves,
and if they ask others to receive a baptism
it should be one they have received themselves.
Lord, forgive us that as a church
we promise people heavenly rewards if they fulfil certain requirements.
Remind us that places at your right hand or your left
are not ours to give
but belong to those to whom they have been allotted.
Liberation by Soviet soldiers surviving prisoners of Auschwitz (Auschwitz). Above the gate of the camp is the famous sign-slogan "Arbeit macht frei» (Arbeit macht frei), which means - "Work makes you free". Concentration released January 27, 1945 part of the 100th Infantry Division of General Fyodor Krasavina. 1st Ukrainian Front.
Liberation by Soviet soldiers surviving prisoners of Auschwitz (Auschwitz). Above the gate of the camp is the famous sign-slogan “Arbeit macht frei» (Arbeit macht frei), which means – “Work makes you free”. Concentration released January 27, 1945.
Lord, it is not easy to work for the liberation of oppressed people.
We would like to do it the easy way,
giving handouts or making nice speeches.
But Jesus has shown us that this kind of work is always costly.
It is like the ancient practice of buying back salves,
except that for us the money we have to put out is our own selves,
our security and our need to be successful,
allowing ourselves to be hurt and in that way healing the hurts of others and helping them go free.
Lord, we remember the time that jealousy arose in our church community,
our parish council, the choir, the youth group,
some trying to get places of honour and others indignant with them.
Then you sent someone who called us together
and showed us how we were no different from the other rulers in our society,
or other important people who like to make their authority felt.
We realised at that moment that this should never happen among us
because for us to be great or important is to be at the service of all.
Lord, we pray for those who are about to get married,
that they may understand what they are asking of each other,
which is that whatever cup of suffering one has to drink
the other must drink it too,
and whatever baptism life demands  of one
the other must enter into that baptism too.
*************************************
 Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

jesuToday we reflect on how Jesus came among us. He came as the one sent by the Father to bring us new life, yet he came among us as seeking to serve rather than to be served. We reflect also that for us, his followers, his way of life sets us a pattern for how we should live. In a world filled with the suffering caused by power struggles Jesus reminds us that our community here must display a different way of being human: ‘Anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be servant of all.’

Homily Notes

Kingdom 11. The values of the kingdom are exactly opposite to those of the world of power politics, social climbing, and vain display. We all know this, yet generations come and generations go by, and we still import titles of honour, displays of prestige, and even the jargon of imperial Rome, the cursus honorum, into the church. The pope may take the title ‘servant of the servants’, but a look at the pomp and circumstance surrounding the papal ceremonies suggests that the need for a power display outweighs theology. Bishops are to be servants, but ‘for the people’s sake’ they wear the last remnants of imperial purple. Clergy are called to take on extra ministry over and above the ministry of the baptised, but in exchange they get a range of titles all suitably graded so that everyone from a newly ordained deacon to Vicar General knows exactly which rung each is on. Reading this Gospel should make us all mightily embarrassed!
Jesus washing feet2. When John in his gospel wanted to convey the same message lie did not have a little teaching scene like this one we read today; rather he had Jesus get up and wash the feet of his disciples with all the messiness and embarrassment that goes with such an act of service. Moreover, we know that foot washing was one of the ways that Christians in the early churches learned how they should see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ (e.g. 1 Tim 5:10). Indeed, it survived as a rite used regularly in some monasteries and by bishops on Holy Thursday. Now it has a formal place in the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday — although it is still such a shocking message that it is always in danger of being simply skipped or turned into a token affair.
3. Given that the gospel should make any cleric uncomfortable, and anything one says about the gospel is likely to be taken as hypocritical self-justification, a better commentary on the gospel is to actually perform the action Jesus carried out and wished us to carry out in imitation of him.
Therefore, introduce the actual practice of foot washing —many in any average congregation will never have seen it or will not remember it from Holy Thursday — and then wash the feet of a group of the community.
Meanwhile, have these words from John read as a commentary on the action taking place: When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them’ On 13:12-17). Then, while the action of foot washing continues, have the shorter form of today’s gospel re-read.
actions and words4. Apart from one action being worth several thousand words, by making a community more familiar with the action of foot washing one is enriching the repertoire of the community’s liturgical experience and helping the community appreciate the action on Holy Thursday more fully.
Many people grumble that no matter how short a homily is, it is still too long — words have become cheap. An action like foot washing will make people sit up — no doubt you reading this think the idea daunting (so too did St Peter) —and hear today’s gospel on its second reading in a way they did not when it was first read!
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Sean Goan
Gospel
The story of the apostles James and John continues with the theme of discipleship in this section of Mark. To appreciate what unfolds here it is important to remember that in the two chapters before this Jesus has consistently challenged his disciples with the core values of the kingdom.
They are to become like children, like servants; they are to give up all attachments; they are to be willing to take up their cross and follow and all this in the context of three predictions of the passion. So it is with that backdrop that James and John coming looking for special status in Jesus’ future glory. The extent of their complete incomprehension is baffling but Jesus shows great patience with them and points out that they will indeed share his future but the glory they seek is not his to give. disciples bicker It would be heartening to think that the other ten were annoyed with James and John for the folly of their question but it might be more realistic to believe their concern was that they might have been upstaged by the other two. So when Jesus gathers them around him it is to tell them once again that in the kingdom of God the exercise of power bears no resemblance to what takes place in the world around them. True greatness lies in service and their model for this is Jesus himself.

Reflection
discipleship
It is a remarkable fact that in Mark, the first of the gospels, one of the consistent themes is that of the incomprehension of the disciples. Again and again they fail to understand what Jesus is talking about and they are also portrayed as being afraid to ask him. They are presented as somewhat self seeking and dull and at times even Jesus becomes exasperated with them (8:14-21). In choosing to present them this way, perhaps Mark was trying to tell us something: take time to recognise yourselves in this portrait of the disciples. The good news is indeed good but it challenges the values that we take for granted and are very much part and parcel of the world we live in. So when we choose the way of the gospel we should not be surprised that it involves a steep learning curve and we may well turn out to be slow learners!
*****
Andrew Greeley: 

Background: 
The apostles simply didn't get. No matter how many times Jesus told them that the kingdom he was restoring was not the old military and nationalist kingdom that the people wanted, but a kingdom in which humans reflected God's forgiving love, they never got the point.  

What other kind of kingdom was there besides one like David and Solomon ran? OK, Jesus was David or Solomon or maybe even someone better.  
What kind of jobs would they have in the new nobility of this new kingdom? They had made a lot of sacrifices for Jesus, what were they going to have in return. In the immortal words of city politics, they asked, "Where's ours?" Jesus told them what it would be, but they still didn't understand. 

 Story: 
 Once upon a time, a widow in her early 70s began thinking about moving from the big family home to a smaller, more manageable residence. One day when youngest daughter was visiting and began playing the piano, the mom told her that when she did move, this daughter could have the piano.  

 Now when the other children heard this, they began to worry among themselves about how their mother would split up the family treasures. Several of them thought they should have been consulted about the piano. After all, they had children who would like to have a piano.  

 Eventually, the widow got wind of her children’s concerns and decided to f ace the issue head on. She called them together and told them, in a gentle way, that her things were hers to decide how she wanted them distributed. What she did with these things had nothing to do with her love for each of them and she was disappointed that they felt that was the case. She had promised the piano to their youngest sister because she was the one who had been most dedicated to practice and seemed to love music. She hoped they knew that she loved each of them and that they would not consider who got what of her things as the sing of her love.  

 After they left, the widow sadly wondered what more she had to do to help her children know of her love for them. 

 Reflection 
It is a remarkable fact that in Mark, the first of the gospels, one of the consistent themes is that of the incomprehension of the disciples. Again and again they fail to understand what Jesus is talking about and they are also portrayed as being afraid to ask him. They are presented as somewhat self-seeking and dull and at times even Jesus becomes exasperated with them (8:14-21). In choosing to present them this way, perhaps Mark was trying to tell us something: take time to recognise yourselves in this portrait of the disciples. The good news is indeed good but it challenges the values that we take for granted and are very much part and parcel of the world we live in. So when we choose the way of the gospel we should not be surprised that it involves a steep learning curve and we may well turn out to be slow learners! 

*****
From the Connections:
THE WORD:
In the Gospel reading a few weeks ago (just a chapter ago in Mark’s Gospel), Jesus admonished his disciples for their pointless argument among themselves as to who was the most important.  James and John apparently did not get the message. 
In today's Gospel account, the two sons of Zebedee – who, with Peter, make up Jesus’ inner circle – ask for the places of honor and influence when Jesus begins his reign.  James and John proclaim their willingness to “drink the cup” of suffering and share in the “bath” or “baptism” of pain Jesus will experience (the Greek word used is baptizein, meaning to immerse oneself in an event or situation).  Jesus finally tells them that the assigning of such honors is the prerogative of God the Father.
Most readers share the other disciples’ indignation at the incredible nerve of James and John to make such a request (Matthew, in his Gospel, casts the two brothers in a better light by having their mother make the request – Matthew 20: 20.)  Jesus calls the disciples together to try again to make them understand that he calls them to greatness through service.  Jesus’ admonition to them is almost a pleading:  If you really understand me and what I am about, if you really want to be my disciple, if you really seek to be worthy of my name, then you must see the world differently and respond to its challenges with a very different set of values.  The world may try to justify vengeance rather than forgiveness, to glorify self-preservation over selflessness, to insist on preserving the system and convention for the sake of compassion and justice – but it cannot be that way with you.
 
HOMILY POINTS:
To be an authentic disciple of Jesus means to put ourselves in the humble, demanding role of servant to others, to intentionally seek the happiness and fulfillment of those we love regardless of the cost to ourselves.
Jesus’ admonition – “It shall not be so among you” – is perhaps the greatest challenge of the Gospel, calling us not to accept “business as usual,” not to accept injustice and estrangement as “the way things are,” not to justify our flexible morals and ethics with the mantra “everybody does it.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus poses the challenge:  Can you drink the cup I will drink?  Can you immerse yourself in my baptism?  Our first inclination is to say, No, Lord, we can’t.  It’s more than we can do.  What Jesus asks us to take on is not easy: his life of humble service, his emptying himself of his own needs and wants for the sake of others.  But there is also a promise here: that if we resolve to try to imitate Jesus’ compassion, if we seek what is right and good and just, if we are motivated by generosity of heart, then the grace of God’s wisdom and strength will be ours, the Spirit of God’s compassion and mercy will be upon us. 
Discipleship calls us to a sense of gratitude for what we have received from God and a commitment to servanthood, putting the lives God has given to us to the service of others, in imitation of his Christ. 
Authentic faith is centered in humility – humility that begins with valuing life as a gift from God, a gift we have received only through God’s mysterious love, not through anything we have done to deserve it. 
 
In praise of the ‘cool’ kid
Growing up, we all knew a “cool” kid: the kid who was always the leader of the gang, who saw himself or herself as the best-looking, the most intelligent, the most able to take on and beat the challenges ahead.  The “cool” boy imposed his will by his physical power or his “smart” attitude; the “cool” girl projected the most sophistication and elegance and ruled the group by her air of superiority (there is a fine line between being “cool” and being a bully). 
The cool kids intimidated us.  We wanted to be cool, too — but, try as we might, “cool” was not in our DNA.   During that important rite of passage called adolescence, we all have our fundamental values tested — except the cool kids.  They lived in the moment, in the now.  While the rest of us suffered through the vulnerability and insecurity of those difficult years of junior high and high school, the cool kids were too in control to waste time on such insecurities.
Or so we thought.
In our later years, when the old gang gets together, we see that everyone has done pretty well, leading happy and productive lives; we made it OK. 
Except for the cool kid.
The cool kid may have enjoyed a little success, but discovered that attitude alone will not get you through adulthood, that it’s what you learn after you know it all that’s important.  During the reunion, the cool kid is once again the life of the party; the cool kid’s time has returned — the moment with the gang.  We smile, laugh at the cool kid’s antics, and understand.
We learned more than we realized from the “cool” kid.
[Suggested from the essay “In praise of creeps” by Paulo Coelho, Ode Magazine, November 2007.]
 
In today’s Gospel, the sons of Zebedee are trying to be the “cool kids,” placing themselves at Jesus’ side before the others in Jesus’ company.  But Jesus challenges their self-importance and self-centeredness by redefining the very meaning of “cool” in the Gospel scheme of things.  When James and John make their startling bold request of Jesus to sit at his right hand in his kingdom, Jesus tells them that they must be willing to immerse themselves in the suffering and pain Jesus will endure for the love of God.  Greatness in the kingdom of God means to totally give oneself in service to others in imitation of Jesus the Servant-Redeemer; consequently, such service can only begin once we “empty” ourselves of our own self-centered needs, wants, interests — and “coolness” — in order to be “filled” with the Gospel spirit of loving servanthood, compassion and forgiveness.
******
Illustrations: 

Fr. Jude Botelho:

Today's first reading from the fourth servant song of the prophet Isaiah portrays the picture of the just man, the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, who is ready to carry the burden of others and endure pain and hardship for others' sake. The Suffering Servant ideal placed before us is the challenge put to all people who claim to be disciples of the Master. Our idea of discipleship is one of privilege, one of power, one of influence, one of being close to the decision maker. God's idea of leadership is one who is ready to bear the burden of others, one who can take responsibility not only for his own deeds but the deeds of others as well, and to do so without complaint. Instead of playing the boss, instead of claiming 'I am the head so you have to do as I say!' can I be the leader who shoulders the burdens of others?

Oh God, make me like your Christ!
In his book 'Famous Life Decisions', Cecil Northcott speaks of the great Japanese Christian Kagawa, who when he first heard about the life of Jesus, cried out, "O God make me like your Christ." To be more like Christ, Kagawa left a comfortable home and went to live in the slums of Tokyo. There he shared himself and his possessions with whoever needed help. Northcott says Kagawa once gave away all his clothing. He was left standing in only a tattered kimono. William Barclay gives us an insight into the heart and mind of Kagawa when he quotes the great man as saying: "God dwells among the lowliest of men. He is there with the beggars, he is among the sick, he stands with the unemployed. Therefore, let him who would meet God visit the prison cell before going to the temple. Before he goes to the Church let him visit the hospital. Before he reads the bible let him help the beggar."
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'

In today's Gospel we see Jesus with his disciples, in fact alone with James and John, brothers of the Zebedee clan. When Jesus asks them what they want they quickly blurt out what is uppermost in their mind. "Grant us to sit one at your right and one at your left in your glory." Jesus patiently teaches them once again what his kingdom is all about. "I cannot promise you the crown, I cannot promise you the glory." Truly, John and James did not know what they were in for. In fact they thought, since they had given up something to follow him, they should be rewarded. Our motivation spoils the best of our actions and even in the following of Jesus we look for recognition, honour, position just as one would get recognition from secular organizations for services rendered. To follow Jesus is to be the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, who humbly carries the burdens of others expecting nothing in return. James and John had said 'Yes' to Jesus' query about whether they were ready to drink of the cup. "You will drink of the cup." Jesus assured them, and drink they did later on, though they did not realize the implications at that time. Are we truly disciples of the Master? Do we want to follow Jesus or do we feel He is asking too much of us? The mission of Jesus has to be continued by you and me. Are we ready? If we want to be great in God's kingdom, there is a price to be paid.

Greatness at What Price
If we look at the enduring examples of greatness, we see that the Lord is right. Alexander was a remarkable leader because he stood by his men in battle. Albert the Great was an intellectual giant because he disciplined himself to study. Beethoven was a master composer because he struggled long hours to get the right note. Martin Luther was a great reformer because he persisted in spite of opposition. Archbishop Romero was great because he was ready to stand against the corrupt leaders and die for his people. Mother Teresa was great because she was able to give up the security of her convent life and open herself to the poorest of the poor. Mahatma Gandhi was great because he worked for freedom for his people and died practicing non-violence as a form of protest.

Tell People the Time
A big clock in the Church's steeple struck the hour at noon with twelve loud and resonant gongs. At this a little wrist watch down below looked up at the big clock and protested, "You think you are bigger and better than us, don't you? I wish you could have a good look at yourself and see how clumsy your hands are and how course your voice is." Without showing annoyance, the big clock calmly said to the wrist watch, "Why don't you come up here, little brother, because I have something to show you." And that's just what the wrist watch did -he climbed the stairs to the steeple to meet the big clock. Once up there, the big clock said to the wrist watch, "Little brother, the man down there wants to know the time. Can you please tell it to him?" "You know I couldn't do that" answered the wrist watch sheepishly. "I know you can't, but I can." explained the big clock. "But when you are down there, you can tell him the time, so that your master does not need to look up to me. But for those who do not have a wrist watch, I am the only one they can turn to. So little brother remember this - each of us have a job to do; to tell people the time. You do it in your way, and I do it in mine. And when we do that, we show people that we are equal and brothers as well."

Anonymous


Converting or sharing the best?
In the recent past I read that Mother Teresa of Kolkata was once summoned to court on a trumped charge that she was converting children in her care to the catholic faith. Standing before the judge, she was asked if that was true. Turning to one of her Sisters, who were cradling a little baby in her arms, Mother Teresa asked for the infant. Then turning to the judge she replied: "Your honour, I picked this little baby from the garbage bin. I don't know the religion of the family into which this innocent infant was born, nor do I know the language that its parents speak. All that I do is that I give this child my love, my time, my care, my food and the best thing that I have in my life -my faith in Christ Jesus. Can't I give this child the best that I have in life?" The case was dismissed in favour of Mother Teresa.
James Valladares in 'Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life'

Power from Above
In 1764 James Watt invented the steam engine and steam power was used for the first time to drive machinery. In 1830 George Stephenson built the famous locomotive called the 'Rocket' which could carry heavy loads and move faster. It was the first real railway engine. The first motor car was built by Daimler in 1891 using petrol power to run on roads. The year 1903 opened the era of air flights, again with engines powered by petrol. Now space flights have become possible with power produced by other sources including liquid oxygen. But there is a greater power which is mightier than these powers -the power of God. This power lives in men empowering them to live victorious lives even in this present world. The clay vessels are made into vessels of glory driven by His power for the Master's use.
Daniel Sunderaraj in 'Manna for the Soul'

 

To serve with love
A boy was consistently coming home late from school. There was no good reason for his tardiness, and no amount of discussion seemed to help. Finally, in desperation, the boy's father sat him down and said: "The next time you come late from school you are going to be given bread and water for your supper -and nothing else. Is that perfectly clear son?" The boy looked straight into his father's eyes and nodded. He understood perfectly. A few days later the boy came home even later than usual. That night however, when they sat down together at the table there was only a single slice of bread in his plate and a glass of water. His father's and mother's plates were full of food. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then, quietly took the boy's plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate and put it in front of the boy. The boy understood what his father was doing. His father was taking upon himself the punishment that he, the boy, had brought upon himself by his own delinquent behaviour. Years later the boy recalled the incident and said: "All my life I've known what God is like by what my father did that night." "The Son of Man came to give his life to redeem many people."
J. Allan Peterson in 'Leadership' Magazine

Shining Example
The following story is told about John Ruskin, the 18th century English writer, when he was quite old. He was visiting with a friend, and he was standing looking out the front window of the house. It was night-time, and the lamp-lighter was lighting the street lamps. From the window one could see only the lamps that were being lit, and the light the lamp-lighter was carrying from one lamp to another. The lamp-lighter himself could not be seen. Ruskin remarked that the lamp-lighter was a good example of the genuine Christian. His way was clearly lit by the lights he lit, and the light he kept burning, even though he himself may not be known or seen. At the beginning of the gospel, Jesus said that He was the light that had come into the world. Today, he tells us that we are to become that light for others...
Jack Mc Ardle in 'And that's the Gospel Truth'

Inflated Ego
Some American tourists one day visited the home of Beethoven. A young woman among them sat down at the great composer's piano and began to play his Moonlight Sonata. After she had finished, she turned to the old caretaker and said: "I presume a great many musicians visit this place every year." "Yes," he replied. "Paderewski was here last year." "And did he play on Beethoven's piano?" "No," he said, "he wasn't worthy."
Anonymous

***
1)    "Before Cell-phones?"
How many of us here this morning were born BC? By "BC" I mean "Before Cell-phones?" The first cell phone was invented in 1973 by Martin Cooper. My kids were born AC, but I was born BC. In a world of 7 billion people, there are now 5 billion cell phone subscriptions. Pretty amazing for something under 40 years old.

In the last forty years the cyber-cellular age has changed the way we do business, the way we get our education, the way we socialize. The world has never been so closely connected, and there has never been this much immediately accessible information as there is with our new online universe. Each cell phone is almost the equivalent of having the Library of Congress in our hands.

Unfortunately all that easily accessed info has also led to an epidemic of a new kind of crime - identity theft. With just a few bits of our personal information, an online burglar can electronically hijack anyone's identity and drain bank accounts, take out huge loans, run up mountains of credit card debt. Once your identity is stolen your name is no longer your own. No matter your name, your name is mud...

2)    Everybody Wants to Be Somebody
Everybody wants to be somebody. Since the dawn of history, human beings have been trying to move up the scale of importance. The clincher used by the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve was "when you eat of [the tree of good and evil], your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). Henri Nouwen says that ever since then, we have been tempted to replace love with power. "The long painful history of the church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led." This is a theme running through the Bible, through human history and through our own psyche.

Kenneth L. Carder, The Call to Downward Mobility, The Christian Century, Oct. 8, 1997, p. 869 

3)    One Positive Thing
"There are many negative things that can be said about James and John," writes William Barclay. "They were nakedly ambitious and proud: they wanted, and believed they deserved, places of honor in Jesus' kingdom. They were ignorant and insensitive: their request for places of honor came right after Jesus had told of His coming suffering and death. But there's one positive thing you can say about James and John: they believed in Jesus. Here was a poor, homeless, persecuted carpenter and yet James and John believed Jesus was a king. They believed that He would conquer the power structure of Rome." Even their crude ambition reflected their faith in Christ.

William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, pp. 254, 255. 

4)    Looking for an EZ Pass
On many of our nation's toll roads, rather than stopping at a toll-booth to toss some change in a hopper, you can now purchase a transponder, sometimes called an EZ-Pass, and zip through in the left lanes without even slowing down to the acceptable speed limit. Instead of cash, tickets and paper receipts, it's a microchip tag placed on your windshield containing pertinent data which eases your way. Your data is quickly read by a tollbooth electronic antenna as your car zooms on through. It automatically deducts your appropriate toll tax. This computerized collection system then sends a monthly statement to your home with tallies of times and places for your records. EZ-Pass is like a debit card for your car, only quicker. No more stopping at the tollgate, the narrow gate.
Jesus says, I am the narrow gate. There's no quick way in. There's no shortcut. If he wasn't the Christ himself already, he'd be the perfect patron saint of tollgates.
Sometimes it seems that everybody wants the easy way to the front of the line, a quick way to glory and fast track to success. Including James and John, the brothers Zebedee, who want front-row seats numbering two and three. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and see if you can identify with their self-centeredness. These guys gave up everything to follow Jesus. They followed Jesus when nobody knew him. They followed Jesus before his miracles. Now that he was popular, James and John were feeling the swell of fame. After all, they were Jesus' best friends, his disciples! So we can understand why two of them came to Jesus with their request.

David Beckett, EZ-Pass
 

5)    "Others"  
In just a few short weeks we will begin to see people in uniforms in shopping malls ringing bells collecting donations for the poor. They are doing the work of the Salvation Army.

In 1878, when the Salvation Army was really beginning to make its mark, men and women from all over the world began to enlist. A man who had once dreamed of becoming a bishop in another denomination crossed the Atlantic from America to England to enlist in the Salvation Army instead. His name was Samuel Brengle. Brengle left a fine pastorate to join William Booth's Army. At first General Booth accepted his services reluctantly and grudgingly. Booth said to Brengle, "You've been your own boss too long." So in order to instill humility in Brengle, he made him work by cleaning the boots of other trainees.

Discouraged, Brengle said to himself, "Have I followed my own fancy across the Atlantic in order to black boots?" Then, as in a vision, he saw Jesus bending over the feet of rough, uneducated fishermen. "Lord," he whispered, "you washed their feet; I will black their shoes."

Samuel Brengle went on to establish the Salvation Army in America. At the time of his death, the Salvation Army was thriving in both the United States and in Canada. Just before his death Brengle sent out a short memo to all of his top leaders. This memo had one single word written on it: "Others." 
 

King Duncan,
_____________________

6)    Caring Service and Its Impact 
A room-service waiter at a Marriott hotel learned that the sister of a guest had just died. The waiter, named Charles, bought a sympathy card, had hotel staff members sign it, and gave it to the distraught guest with a piece of hot apple pie.

"Mr. Marriott," the guest later wrote to the president of Marriott Hotels, "I'll never meet you. And I don't need to meet you. Because I met Charles. I know what you stand for. ... I want to assure you that as long as I live, I will stay at your hotels. And I will tell my friends to stay at your hotels."

Roger Dow and Susan Cook, Turned On, (New York: Harper Business, 1996).
 
7)    Power 
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Range of Washington exploded with what is probably the most visible indication of the power of nature that the modern world has ever seen. At 8:32 A.M. the explosion ripped 1,300 feet off the mountain, with a force of ten million tons of TNT, or roughly equal to five hundred Hiroshimas. Sixty people were killed, most by a blast of 300-degree heat traveling at two hundred miles an hour. Some were killed as far as sixteen miles away.

The blast also leveled 150-foot Douglas firs, as far as seventeen miles away. A total of 3.2 billion board-feet of lumber were destroyed, enough to build 200,000 three-bedroom homes.

Michael P. Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, p. 269
____________________
 George Bernard Shaw was once asked in what generation he would have preferred to live. The witty Irishman replied: "The age of Napoleon, because then there was only one man who thought he was Napoleon."

G. Curtis Jones, "1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching" p. 291
 
8)    Power Verses Service
Alexander, Caesar, and Hannibal conquered the world but had no friends....Jesus founded his empire upon love, and at this hour millions would die for him.... He has won the hearts of men, a task a conqueror cannot do."

Napoleon
____________________
9)    I wouldn’t do that for all the money in the world
A well-dressed European woman was on safari in Africa. The group stopped briefly at a hospital for lepers. The heat was intense, the flies buzzing. She noticed a nurse bending down in the dirt, tending to the pus-filled sores of a leper.

With disdain the woman remarked, "Why, I wouldn't do that for all the money in the world!"

The nurse quietly replied, "Neither would I." 
Donald L. Deffner, Seasonal Illustrations p. 130 

10)   Service
"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found a way to serve."

Albert Schweitzer
 
11)  I Hate To Leave This Church
A Methodist pastor once wrote about power and politics in his denomination. Methodist preachers, he notes, are under the care of a bishop. Bishops, in turn, are Methodist preachers who are elected by fellow Methodist preachers after an extensive campaign for the office in which the candidate tries not to be caught campaigning. As he observes, It is a long-standing Methodist tradition that bishops must not appear to have sought their office and, once elected, the new bishop must make a public declaration that "I didn't seek this office and I didn't want it but, once the Lord calls" ... Methodist preachers take all of this with a grain of salt, the same way Baptist congregations have learned to be somewhat skeptical when one of their preachers moves on to a better church claiming, "I hate to leave this church and I would rather stay here, but the Lord calls." Baptists note that the Lord rarely calls someone out of one church into another church unless that church has a higher salary. Methodists have likewise noted that there have been few preachers who, once they are elected bishop, turn the job down. 

"Teacher, we want you to put us on your right and on your left. But keep it quiet. Don't make it too obvious. Others may become offended that we asked first." By telling us this story, Mark knows what you and I know: we are prone to the same desire for privilege and protected status. We want a Jesus who will give us what we want, a Lord who can shower a little power on us, a Savior who can make us better than we are.

William G. Carter, No Box Seats in the Kingdom, CSS Publishing.
 
12)  What's In It For Me?
A number of years ago, a small book appeared for ministers. Titled The Penguin Principles, it attempted to help naive clergy get a handle on the people of their congregations. Most of the material in the book was written with tongue in cheek, so it has some truth in it. According to the book, the first principle of church life goes like this: "Despite the pious things we say, at any given time, less than five percent of any group in the church is operating with purely Christian motivation. The other 95 percent is asking, 'What's in it for me?'"

William G. Carter, No Box Seats In The Kingdom, CSS Publishing.
 
13)  Service
Have you heard the beautiful children's story about the three trees? The trees were talking in the forest one day about their dreams for the future. The first tree said it would like to be made into a cradle, so that it might go on living as a support for the fragile life of a tiny new baby. The second tree wanted to be made into a big ship, so that it might go on living, carrying important cargo and influential people to exotic new lands. The third tree longed to stay right where it was, existing only as a tree, but growing ever taller, and pointing ever higher, to remind everyone that there is a God in heaven who loves them. Those were their dreams: One wanted to be a cradle, one wanted to be a mighty ship, and one wanted to be a tall tree, pointing people toward God.
But then one day the woodcutters came and chopped down the three trees...and destroyed their dreams. The first tree was not made into a cradle, but into a simple feeding trough, a manger for animals. But the manger was sold to a family in Bethlehem, and on the night Jesus was born, that simple feed box became the cradle for the Christ Child.

The second tree was built into a boat, but not the kind it had dreamed of--not a mighty ocean-going vessel--but a tiny inexpensive fishing boat. A man named Simon Peter bought the boat, and on one warm afternoon when the crowds pressed in, Jesus himself climbed aboard that small fishing boats that he might preach good news to the multitudes.
The third tree also was deprived of its dream... 

From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

14) “Feel free to call on your commander-in-chief:”
On one occasion during the American Revolutionary War, preparations were being made for an up-coming battle. A man dressed in civilian clothes passed a Corporal who was screaming orders at his men. Seeing that they were obviously exhausted from their labor, the man asked the corporal, “Why don’t you help them?” “Sir,” the corporal bristled as his anger rose, “I am a Corporal!” With a quick apology, the stranger took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves and set to work with the soldiers. “Mr. Corporal, Sir,” he said when the task was completed, “whenever you need someone to help with a job, feel free to call on your commander-in-chief. I will be happy to be of service.” With that, George Washington put on his coat and left. President Washington understood today’s gospel teaching that those who aspire to greatness or first rank among others, must serve the needs of all. (http://www.ascensioncatholic.net/lectionary/CycleB/reflection/)

15) Muhammad Ali “the greatest.”
Muhammad Ali, the boxer used to call himself “the greatest!" There was something comical about his arrogance. Once he declared: "I float like a butterfly, I sting like a bee." The story is told of him that once when he was on an airplane about to take off, the flight steward said, "Sir, would you please fasten your seat belt?" Muhammad Ali replied, "Superman doesn’t need a seat belt." The steward replied, "In that case, Superman doesn’t need an airplane to fly." Today’s gospel tells us of two of Jesus’ disciples who wanted to be supermen—to sit at the right hand and the left hand of Jesus in his messianic kingdom-- to be the greatest, to be the first.

16) Carrot flight to heaven:
Rev. Anthony DeMello S. J. shares this tale: An old woman was dying. While examining her records, the heavenly court could not find a single act of charity performed by her except for a carrot she had once given to a starving beggar. Such, however, was the power of a single deed of love that the merciful Lord decreed that she be taken up to heaven on the strength of that carrot. The angel brought back the carrot from heaven and gave it to her soul which was leaving her body. The moment she caught hold of the carrot, it began to rise as if pulled by some invisible string, lifting her up toward the sky. The soul of a beggar appeared. He clutched the hem of her garment and was lifted with her; a third person caught hold of the beggar’s foot and was lifted too. Soon there was a long line of souls being lifted up to heaven by that carrot. And, strange as it may seem, the woman did not feel the weight of all those people who held onto her. In fact, since she was looking heavenward, she did not even see them. Higher and higher they rose until they almost reached the heavenly gates. That was when the woman looked back to catch a last glimpse of the earth and saw this whole train of people behind her. She was indignant! She gave an imperious wave of her hand and shouted, “Off! Off, all of you! This carrot is mine!” In making her proud gesture, she let go of the carrot for a moment – and down she fell with the entire train. De Mello concludes: There is only one cause for every evil on earth: “This is mine attitude!” Today’s gospel describes how Jesus handled greed in two of his disciples.

17) NBA superstar on service:
Nearly a decade after leaving professional basketball, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar decided to return to the sport he loved, by accepting a coaching position with the Alchesay Falcons - a high-school team of mostly White Mountain Apaches. As an African-American among Native Americans, Abdul-Jabbar had a great deal to learn about these people. He discovered surprising cultural traditions that made it difficult for him to coach them, such as the Indian discomfort at being singled out for criticism as well as their extreme sensitivity. By working with these people, however, and sacrificing his time and talents, Abdul-Jabbar learned to appreciate them and form them into a super team. He did not try to lord it over them as an NBA superstar. Instead, he served them. In the end, he may have learned more than he actually taught. He became a good example of servant leadership.

18) Support your senator doing free service:
A priest went into a Washington, D. C. barber shop for a haircut. When the barber finished, the priest asked him what the charge was and the barber responded, “No charge, Father, you are serving the Lord and I consider my service rendered to you as a service to the Lord.” The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop he found at his front door a stack of usable Christmas cards and a note of thanks from the priest. A few days later, a police officer went to the same barber for a haircut. When he went to pay, the barber said, “No charge, officer. I consider it a service to our community because you serve our community.” The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop there were a dozen donuts at the front door and a note of thanks from the policeman. A few days after this an influential senator came in for a haircut. “No charge, Senator, I consider it a service to my country.” The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop there were two other congressmen waiting for their chance for the barber’s free service, carrying a note of thanks from the Senator!

19)    "I  discovered  that  Service  is  Joy": 
It  may  sound  unbelievable, but  it is true that Asia's first Nobel Prize winner in Literature (1913), Rabindranath Tagore, was behind the three great national anthems of three great nations, viz. Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. He was also the first non-westerner to win the Nobel Prize in literature. He did so in 1913. He wrote this short poem: 

I slept and dreamt that life was Joy;
Then I awoke and realized that life  as Service.
And then I went to work -
and, lo and behold,
I discovered that Service is Joy. 

Today’s   gospel teaches   us that true happiness comes from surrendering ourselves completely in humble service to God through Christ. And all we need is a servant's heart, mind, eyes and touch. So, "How's Your Serve?"
  
20)   "Sir, I  am a Corporal!"
During the American Revolution, a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers who were busy pulling out a horse carriage stuck in deep mud. Their officer was shouting instructions to them while making no attempt to help. The stranger who witnessed the scene asked the officer why he wasn't helping. With great dignity, the officer replied, "Sir, I am a Corporal!" The stranger dismounted from his horse and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers himself. When the job was completed, he turned to the corporal and said, "Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this, and dont have enough men to do it, inform your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again." Too late, the proud Corporal recognized General Washington. Where did Washington learn such leadership skills? I have no doubt he learned them here,  in these  words of  Jesus: Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.The young corporal had these words modeled for him by the man at the top. Jesus' disciples, likewise, receive from their leader a picture of servant hood.

21) True Greatness:
Nobel prizes are awarded every year in literature, economics and science. People who have made outstanding contributions in these fields are given due recognition for their achieved greatness. Excellence is recognized in the sports world, too. For example, when Pete Rose surpassed Ty Cobb’s record number of hits in 1985, he assured himself a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame. We all aspire to greatness in some form or another. It is a desire which our Lord addresses in today’s gospel. But if we look deeper into enduring examples of greatness, we see that the Lord is right. Alexander the great was a remarkable leader because he stood by his men in battle. Albert the Great was an intellectual giant because he disciplined himself for study. Beethoven was a master composer because he struggled long hours to get the right note. Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’ (Quoted by Fr. Botelho).
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