Friday, October 16, 2009

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time –Year B

- Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA
Mission Sunday

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time –Year B – (18th October, 2009)
(Isaiah 53.10 -11:Hebrews 4.14-16:Mark 10.35-45)

Once when I was working in Nigeria in one of the newspapers there appeared an advertisement which read ‘Advertisers for Jesus Christ wanted’. I was sorry Iater that I had not replied to find out what qualities they were looking for. Normally when we see advertisements in the newspaper, on radio or television it’s about some product or event etc. But surely advertisers of Jesus Christ are not just advertising a product but the most important Person who ever who lived. Besides don’t we expect an advertiser or a disciple of Jesus to actually live according to the values of Jesus? As St.Augustine once said ‘I would rather see a sermon lived than preached’. So it is more important to advertise Jesus by our lifestyle and not just by claiming to be a follower of his.

Jesus is the greatest missionary of all time. He came to witness to the Father, a God of total love, compassion, gentleness and forgiveness. Sadly many Christian Churches including the Catholic Church at times have not advertised or witnessed to the God Jesus came to witness to.

The Church is missionary by its very nature and so we are all called to witness to Jesus and to the Holy Trinity by our way of living. For some their calling is to be fulltime or ‘professional missionaries’ – those who leave their own countries and witness to Jesus wherever they minister especially in places where Jesus had previously not been heard of. Those like members of my own Society of African Missions work in many African countries and elsewhere. In times of civil conflicts just as in the more recent ones in Liberia and Ivory Coast they stayed there in loving service ministering to the needs of these unfortunate people. They are trying in very difficult situations to put into practice the call of Jesus to loving service. But we are all called to be missionaries by our very baptism calling? So whether we are priests, religious, married people or single, each one of us is called to be missionary wherever we live.

Today in Ireland we celebrate Mission Sunday whose theme this year is REACH OUT. So let’s do just that. We can reach out wherever we are to whomever we wish and the wonder is that by reaching out we come to see that no one is out of reach!

The late and great Archbishop Helder Camara of Recife in Brazil and champion of the poor and marginalized once described Mission as a refusal to be locked into the problems of the little world in which we exist. To quote him: ‘Mission is always looking outwards, reaching out beyond ourselves, our home, our community, our parish, our diocese, and our nation. Mission is opening oneself to others as brothers and sisters, discovering and encountering them, sharing their joys and sufferings. It is to discover and reach out to them’.

The situation in the gospel today is similar to this. Jesus had just been speaking about his coming suffering and terrible death in Jerusalem in the passage just prior to this. Yet two of his closest disciples are only focused on themselves and want the best places in his kingdom. They are not concerned about Jesus or others but only about their own interests. Reaching out to others is not their priority. The other ten apostles become angry with them when they heard about this, most probably because the 2 got their request in first.

Here and throughout his gospel, one of the aims of Mark’s is to show us the disciples in their very human condition. He paints a very realistic picture of them, showing their petty ambitions, their frequent misunderstanding of who Jesus was and what he was about. Eventually they would all abandon him. Mark shows these disciples, warts and all. And he was right. The twelve were not a company of saints, they were very ordinary men, people like you and me. Yet these were the very men Jesus chose as his missionaries. It was only after the resurrection that they came to realize who Jesus really was as the Messiah and what he came to do. This surely is very consoling for us who try to follow Jesus. Often we fail to live up to our Christian calling. Three years with Jesus didn’t change them much before his resurrection.

The other more marvellous reality was that Jesus did not give up on these disciples despite his frustrations and efforts to educate them about what he was about. Neither will Jesus give up on us. No matter how often we fail, he will stand by us. We need to remember that it is a lifetime’s work and it takes a long period to have Jesus transform us to be true disciples.

When the 2 disciples and then the other 10 air their ambitions, Jesus in one of the most important statements in Mark’s gospel today says that the Son of Man had not come to serve but to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many. He is teaching his disciples and each of us what the essence of Christianity is about – loving, humble service of others. Here Jesus is shifting the centre of gravity in religion and redefines the way that leads to God.

I am sure that you here today are trying to do that daily – nurses, doctors, parents with families and ageing parents, schoolteachers etc. Rarely will there be fanfares for your work but God certainly sees and appreciates your daily efforts.

“Lord Jesus, may we always ask for the gift of humble, loving service of others. In that way we will have the peace and joy you wish to give us now. Amen”.

(Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA. 20th October, 2009)

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