Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings of the DayRB: Ch 17 The Number of Psalms to be Sung at the HoursMass: Is 53:10-11; Resp Ps 33; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45
Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
While looking online for an issue of Sports Illustrated (SI) dedicated to Mohammed Ali published after his death in 2016, I came across instead the issue of October 15, 2015. There were a series of questions posed by SI which Ali answered by mail through his wife, Lonnie. With his body and mind ravaged by Parkinson's Disease, Ali was no longer able to communicate as he once did, or as Lonnie put it, 'He doesn't talk at length anymore, and that is reflected in his answers.' One question was this: 'Throughout your life you have touched people by being yourself. How does this make you feel?' Ali's response: 'It makes me feel good, but I don't know if I've touched them like your saying. I only know because people tell me. It's God's blessing if I'm able to touch people and make them feel good about themselves and motivate them to do better.'
I think of Mohammed Ali in relationship to today's Gospel: First, the sons of Zebedee and their request to sit by Jesus, one to the right, the other to the left; secondly, Jesus' words, 'whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.' Mohammed Ali is someone I always admired as a kid growing up in the 70s. After all, he was the greatest; he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. It was until I was an adult that I learned of Ali's other faces, those of humility and charity. And the face of suffering. Ali knew what he was about and he 'cashed in his talents' so to speak, using his God given gifts to serve God and neighbor. I found another quote online attributed to Ali: 'Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.' Ali was a philanthropist, a man of charity. Sure, Ali boasted. Not only in himself though, he boasted in the one God. He knew about discipline and hard work and using what God had given him, touching people in ways big and small.
By way of example, it is worth quoting in full a paragraph included in the SI piece of 2015:
'On the night of July 19, 1996, in a surprise astonishingly kept secret until the last moment, Ali lit the flame to commence the Atlanta Olympic Games. He stood with the torch quivering in his right hand as he accepted the flame from Janet Evans, then 24, a swimmer who had won four gold medals in the previous two Olympics. A primal roar washed over the stadium. Evans, who was also competing in those Games, was told only the night before that she, as the penultimate torch-bearer, would be passing the flame to Ali, whom she knew only as an important name from some distant history. 'I didn't understand the reverence,' says Evans. 'I didn't understand it until the stadium started shaking, like an earthquake.''
We never know the effect we are going to have on people. If we can be remembered for anything, it seems to me being remembered for our love and service of God and for our love and service of our neighor would be a life well lived and one worth remembering. A life of service doesn't come without a huge price though. The question we must ask ourselves comes from Jesus: 'Can you drink the cup that I drink?'
Let us pray for all the faithful departed, especially today for the repose of the soul of Abbot Joseph Boyle, OCSO (1941-2018). Rest in peace.