If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 19 October 2018

  29th. Sunday of Year (B)

(Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45)


This Sunday we have a matter of translation to consider first of all, but it does quickly lead to a serious issue concerning Catholic spirituality which translators are not necessarily aware of:

Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.

That is our New American Bible Revised Version’s translation and it is a literal translation of the Church’s official Latin Vulgate text, as also of the original Greek Gospel.

However, certain other modern translations change the word ‘will’, future tense, to ‘must’, imperative.  Why?   Obviously, it would seem, because that is what the scholars involved consider Jesus’ intention must (!) have been.  But does that then mean that -- in their view -- the evangelist himself, or perhaps even Peter the originating source of Mark’s Gospel, did not understand Jesus accurately enough?  Or rather, might it in fact be the case, that those translators -- professional and learned scholars who without doubt do great work for the Gospel – have, as scholars sensitive to their international standing, to bear in mind such a multitude of technical facts and human opinions that they simply do not have the time – or the ability – to be able to appreciate and answer spiritual questions with a like excellence manifested in their professional capacity?   It is a question worth asking and considering, because professional exegetes today produce volumes of New Testament studies of such burdensome size, quoting the opinions of seemingly innumerable scholars often writing in their own language, that it is hardly possible for them to have read and understood deeply as required all that they quote or refer to, let alone to have carefully weighed and pondered consequences and further issues of a more exclusively spiritual nature that might be involved.

Let us therefore consider what the Evangelist, St. Mark, says in his Gospel as we have it today:

Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.

Notice first of all that Jesus is speaking privately to His chosen disciples, whom He knew intimately as regards both their individual characters and their personal love for and devotion to Himself; men who, indeed, He is in the very process of training as His future Apostles:

Whoever wishes to be great among you will be... 

Many translators think that here Jesus means ‘must make yourself to be…’ a servant of the others; because to attain their object, their desire, their ambition, to be great they must do something that distinguishes and shows them to be ‘special’!  And surely, we can understand that trend of thought.

Yes, we can understand that because it is a normal, worldly, way of thinking.  But, precisely, here we are not considering the thought patterns of every-day human beings firmly ensconced in an ordinary worldly situation: we are thinking about men chosen by God first of all for their love of Jesus, and then being further singled out by Jesus Himself with regard not only to their individual characters and human  capabilities but also and more particularly for their special endowments of spiritual sensitivity and commitment for membership of a unique group known as The Twelve; moreover, we are hearing carefully chosen words being addressed to them alone by Jesus, the ‘Word’ of God and the ‘Wisdom’ of God made flesh.

The translation ‘Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servantdemands that anyone of them harbouring such ambitions must do something to make, prove, himself  to be a servant worthy of such prominence; and in that way it demands a measure of self-interest, self-seeking and, of self-appreciation.   Now that is most certainly not what Jesus wanted in His Apostles.

On the other hand, our translation ‘Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant, declares that any one of them with – anyone to whom God has indeed given -- aspirations, hopes, prayers for such greatness, will be brought by God the Father to serve his brethren; either in actual physical service, or in self-sacrificing spiritual humility and fraternal commitment.  Now that is the way Jesus Himself lived in our regard: not choosing for Himself, but being led by His Father, just as our first reading, taken from the book of Isaiah, made so abundantly clear:

                The Lord was pleased to crush Him in infirmity;

                The will of the Lord shall be accomplished through Him.

And this attitude is incontrovertibly shown by Our Blessed Lord at His agony in the Garden when He said:

Abba, Father, all things are possible to You.  Take this cup away from Me; before adding, but not what I will but what You will. (Mark 14:36)

Let us therefore look back at the preposterous request made (according to Mark’s Gospel which vividly records Peter’s preaching) by James and John, sons of Zebedee:

                Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You!!

Matthew tries to make it more acceptable by saying the request was made by the mother of those two disciples … but the original indignation of their fellow apostles is surely most clearly witnessed to and justified by Mark’s account as remembered by Peter.

Therefore, assuming Mark is accurate and James and John did make such an outrageous request of Jesus, the question arises, ‘Why did Jesus treat their request so seriously?’  And surely the answer must be, ‘Because He had something important to teach them from it.’  He is about to show them something essential for their future understanding of themselves and of the ways of their God, His Father.

They were at that moment trying to express, in badly chosen words -- but also quite simply and humbly before Jesus -- what His Father was trying to inspire in them: an aspiration, in no circumstances whatsoever to be mistaken as an ambition.

Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.

Yes, you will be servants and slaves because My Father is trying to draw you along, guide you on, His way for you; but His will alone will be done in you, not your will for your own personal renown, not even your will for His renown.  His will will be done in you, and in His way.

Jesus took their preposterous but childishly innocent request seriously because they were indeed intended to become Apostles for the establishment of His Church and the Kingdom of God, and this folly, this misunderstanding of His Father’s intentions in their regard, needed to be corrected.  Indeed, in a certain measure it was being corrected at that very moment, by the well-deserved embarrassment they had to put up with when they dropped back -- Jesus usually walked in front of His Apostles -- to join their indignant fellow Apostles whom they had earlier, so symbolically, left behind in order to go ahead and talk privately with Jesus. 

Jesus however, once again walking alone ahead of His Apostles, noticed what was going on behind Him and we are told:

He summoned them, and said to them…. Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.

They would have learnt so much about themselves and about God’s will for them from those words of Jesus!

Dear People of God, as we consider the history of Mother Church past and present, we can surely appreciate the superhuman task that faced and still faces the Twelve Apostles and their subsequent episcopal successors: the establishment of a cohesive Catholic Church: one in faith, morals, and obedience, throughout history and for all mankind.  They would indeed have the Holy Spirit, ‘Gifted’ them by Jesus, abiding in them personally and with them as a Body, forming them as the very Body of Christ for the glory of God the Father and the salvation of all men and women of good will; but what immense difficulties would subsequently arise through those who -- like James and John though not so innocently as they -- would mistake  their own ambitions for God’s inspiration, God’s inviting and guiding grace.   How many souls would, do, and will, suffer from the overweening pride of individuals in powerful positions: be they bombastic, arrogant, and ambitious prelates or scheming, harsh and unbending, mother superiors!

Undoubtedly, however, the single most important task for Mother Church today is the defence, purification and exaltation of Christian family life, and the supreme need in Catholic spirituality is for all Catholic parents to assume family responsibility and exercise shared and loving parental authority; and, forgetting themselves, to draw ever closer to Jesus, humbly and patiently centred on the will of God the Father: becoming ever more able to discern and distinguish His will from their own, and His glory from their own reputation and the blame or acclamation of men.

Such parents are not helped at times by prelates or priests, who, in their proclamation of the Gospel and traditional Catholic understanding of Christian marriage, think it necessary for them to apologize for not themselves being ordinary, poor and unknown, Catholics and Christians, to apologize even for not themselves being women, when needing to clarify and confirm traditional Catholic teaching on the family.  As prelates (and priests) they have been specially anointed as CHRISTS for our times, specially chosen to hand down what they have themselves received: the teaching of Christ and the historically declared will of God for mankind’s salvation!!  They have been placed in the full beam of the world’s, and of the Church’s, attention and scrutiny not for their own peaceful and popular passage when in office, nor for what the world might call the ‘well-being and good pleasure’ of all concerned by their decisions, but -- in the Church of Christ and by the authority  of that Church -- to proclaim the One Lord and Saviour of mankind, Jesus Christ, as Jesus Himself encouraged them:

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the One Who sent Me.  (John 13:20)

Let them live up to such encouragement, to such a glorious promise, and stop fearing for self and hedging for popularity!

            Your friends, O Lord, make known the glorious splendour of Your reign!

Dear People of God, let us aspire with all our heart to love Jesus for the Father, to serve Jesus by His Spirit, in the Church given to Jesus by His Father for the salvation of men and women of good will.  Let us not seek a Church of human choice, strong in numbers and bolstered by popularity, but barren of fruit born of God’s grace and bereft of His uniquely saving presence.