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The Gift of Selfless Service

The Gift of Selfless Service

October 17, 2021

Chapter Talk – 29th Sunday of the Year – October 17, 2021, cycle-B

We want ‘glory’ but there is a cost.  This is the essential message of today’s gospel.  Jesus is addressed by James and John, two of his disciples, as ‘teacher’…and they add, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mk 10:35-45).  This is the ‘ego’s’ position, cut off from the will of God.  Imagine any of us asking a recognized ‘teacher’ of God’s law and commandments, please I want you to do whatever I ask of you!!!  As children we may approach our parents with this same mentality but keep in mind it is still a child’s consciousness, a consciousness that is growing and maturing.  Jesus gives the two some ‘space’ as he receives their question, and he follows it with: “What do you want me to do for you?”  Their reply: “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and one at your left” (Mk 10:37).  To me this feels like one of the temptations that Jesus faced in the wilderness before he begins his public ministry.  He is being asked to assume power or authority that is not his.  Jesus is clear in his response, asking them if they can drink the cup that he will drink and be baptized with the baptism that he will be baptized.  All these explicitly point to the suffering that is endemic to doing the will of God.  No ‘life’, no life of God is born without the gift of self.  We are to give, to offer something…and this in response to the Divine promptings. 

In terms of Jesus’ understanding of power, the gospel passage continues with Jesus exhorting the disciples not to lord it over anyone and that if any want to be great, they must follow the One who came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.  The dialectic here is very interesting in terms of contrasting the ego’s consciousness with that of Jesus’ perspective.  There is the human desire for power and glory on the one side, and then the great reversal that Jesus puts forth, glory comes through suffering…the will of God is the ‘one thing necessary’.  And, glory comes through service, through the gift of self, no matter the cost. The action to ‘lord it over’, to exercise authority over others Jesus challenges with the call to serve…”Whoever would be great must be your servant…for the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). 

Pope Francis says that “Today’s gospel (Mk 10:35-45) describes Jesus who, once again and with great patience, tries to correct his disciples, converting them from the world’s mentality to that of God” (Angelus, October 21, 2018).  The Pope emphasizes that the way of love is never a winner in the worldly mentality.  It is as if Jesus says, “Now follow me and learn how to love ‘at a loss’”.  Pope Francis explains this loving ‘at a loss’ in these words: “The way of love is always ‘at a loss’, because to love means to set aside egoism, self-referentiality, in order to serve others” (Angelus).  In the way of the gospel and in the consciousness of Jesus as contrary to the mentality of the world, ‘love’ is not a ‘loss’ because it sets in motion the transformative power of God.

“The way of service is the most effective antidote against the disease of seeking first place”, says Pope Francis (Angelus).  What a reversal in thought: to serve rather than to seek power, to serve rather than seeking to lord it over others…This quality of service that Jesus is speaking about is ‘selfless’, it is in fact selfless love.  The human person’s life becomes the vessel for God to do God’s work of healing, of transformation.  But the vessel of our lives must be open and free, following the kenosis of Jesus who put his life at the total service of God’s will.  With the song of the ‘suffering servant’ we ask: “To whom has the power of God been revealed?” (Is 53:1).  There Jesus stands as God’s icon of selfless service, of embodying God’s love totally.  We might ask ourselves: Where, like the disciples, does my present ‘mentality’ need conversion to the mentality of God, to God who says, ‘Turn back to me…for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways (Is 55:7)?  We have a Teacher,…let us follow him and learn from him how to serve, how to love, how to dwell more in his consciousness, his way of seeing and acting.

Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess

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