Homily for Twenty-Ninth Sunday B18 Oct 2018, by Sermons in
Our gospel passage this morning reminds me of the story about an older man and his two sons. The younger son lived far away from home while the senior son was always with their father. But the younger son who lived far away from home called their father often and sent money for his upkeep, while his senior brother, who always at home with their father, hardly finds time to even engage the older man in any form of conversation. A day came when the older man said to his senior son; Son, you stay with me in this house, yet you are so far away from me, but your brother who is far away from home is closer to me.
The two Sons of Zebedee, James, and John wanted to stay very close to Jesus. They said, Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory. That was how close they wanted to stay with Jesus, but they were actually far from Jesus as the senior son in our story. To sit at the right and left hand of Jesus may actually reflect power, authority, and closeness, but the real closeness comes from sitting at the feet of Jesus. That was where Mary, Lazarus’ sister, stayed, and the Lord said she chose the better part. To sit at the feet is a sign of humility, love, and respect.
I am not trying to divide Jesus into parts, but what James and John actually wanted by asking Jesus to let them sit, one at his right and the other at his left, was power and position. Their request was a clear lack of understanding, just as Jesus’ response indicates. He said to them. You do not know what you are asking.
The apostles had argued among themselves about who was the greatest among them. Even though Jesus made them understand that the greatest must be like a little child, the two brothers still tried to outsmart the other ten to persuade Jesus to position them above others. When the other ten discovered the scheming of the two brothers, they were angry.
That is our world’s problem today, the inordinate quest for power, for position and wealth. There is so much suffering in our world today because leaders lobby to get to the top, not to serve but to be served. Wherever you find power tussle, you find conspiracy, betrayer, hatred, and all kinds of evil. Politicians and many other civil servants try to eliminate each other for power and position. Brothers conspire against each other for a piece of property, and even Churches are multiplying and struggling for power and recognition.
Today Jesus reminds us that greatness comes from service; anyone who wants to be first among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. When one begins to run after power and recognition selfishly, it shows a lack of experience of the joy of surrendering all to God. The way to the right and left hand of Jesus is the feet; James and John at the time they requested to be allowed to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus were not set to sit at his feet, neither did they understand the throne upon which they wish to sit. It is humility that takes one to that throne; he who humbles himself to sit at the feet of Jesus will sit with him on the throne. He asked the two brothers; Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I must be baptized? In other words, can you humble yourself to take the faults of others upon yourself? Can you humble yourself to carry the cross through the streets of Jerusalem? Can you die for the guilty?
Humility is a dying virtue in our world today, it is seen as a sign of weakness, yet it is strength. With his gestures of humility, Pope Francis has touched so many lives in recent times. Humility was a weapon against poverty and an instrument of joy in the hands of Mother Teresa; Who said, These are the few ways we can practice humility:
To speak as little as possible of one’s self.
To mind one’s own business.
Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.
To avoid curiosity.
To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
To pass over the mistakes of others.
To accept insults and injuries.
To accept being slighted, forgotten, and disliked.
To be kind and gentle, even under provocation.
Never to stand on one’s dignity.
To choose always the hardest.
The virtue of humility is a big challenge to our society today, but as the writer of the letter to the Hebrew said in our second reading this morning, let us approach the throne of mercy and ask for the courage and faith we need to humble ourselves.