by Father William R. Dulaney
ISN’T IT AMAZING how certain people or situations leave a lasting impression on you?
During a Saturday morning bike ride in Marine Park some 35 years ago, I came upon coaches and parents from St. Thomas Aquinas’ sports program hard at work removing broken glass and clearing debris from a baseball diamond, getting it ready for a game. When I remarked how good the field looked, they said they’d been there, as most Saturdays, since 6 a.m.
Complimenting them on their efforts, good spirit and concern for everyone’s safety, I returned to the rectory, uplifted by my encounter with these great people.
I’d bet any priest or deacon would have stories galore about selfless workers and dedicated parishioners who have impressed them over the years. I’ve never been in an assignment or pastoral situation where this hasn’t happened.
The spirit of generosity and sacrifice so evident in the many volunteers we’ve been fortunate to know is a far cry from the self-serving attitude manifested by James and John in today’s Gospel. Imagine demanding of Jesus: “we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you,” or having the nerve to say to Him: “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Our Lord uses this incident to teach the 12 Apostles and us (His 21st-century disciples) what is involved in following Him.
To Serve, Not to Be Served
Jesus declared that He came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. He leaves no doubt — whoever wishes to be great among His followers must serve others, even to the point of being the slave to all.
While we understand what Jesus is saying, there are many times we may feel our best efforts are unappreciated or we suspect we’re being used.
When this happens, it’s important to remember our good works reflect God’s love and manifest our love for others. Any good we do benefits others, and gives them a reason to hope. Should we, discouraged and frustrated, stop helping others or abandon a worthwhile project, the good we wanted to accomplish might remain undone.
If the criticism, aggravation and rejection that come our way wear us down, we need to realize we are not alone.
In Isaiah, the Lord’s servant accomplishes God’s will through suffering and sacrifice for others. The excerpt from Hebrews reminds us that Jesus, the Great High Priest, understands and sympathizes with us in our struggles as “one who has been similarly tested in every way.”
The crosses we bear as we juggle family responsibilities, job demands and volunteer work can be heavy. Today’s readings teach us our faith can help us deal with these realities of life and see them in the context of our relationship with God and His call to eternal life. These texts are invigorating and encourage us to take the good we do to a higher level.
When Our Lord speaks to James and John about sharing in His baptism and the cup He will drink, He is challenging them to realize the glory they seek will be theirs only after they have surrendered themselves to Him and only in the next life.
Look Beyond This Life
We are likewise challenged to look beyond this life and develop a close relationship with Our Lord. For us as Catholics, this relationship should include daily prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments which give us grace to live as we should and make the sacrifices we are capable of making for our own and others’ good.
As we participate in parish and community programs we enrich others’ lives and give evidence we are obeying Jesus’ mandate to serve His people. In following Christ faithfully, we make the world a better place and build up for ourselves treasures in heaven.
In the spirit of today’s Scriptures, we pray we will remain alert and open to opportunities for service to others. Like the CYO coaches and parents I encountered years ago in Marine Park, we all have the ability to make a lasting impression on and inspire others: not for our own glory but with the hope they imitate us and continue the cycle of good works done in God’s name.[hr]
Readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 53: 10-11
Psalm 33: 4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Hebrews 4: 14-16
Mark 10: 35-45 or Mark 10: 42-45[hr] Father William R. Dulaney is a parochial vicar at St. Gregory the Great parish, Bellerose.