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Bulletin: October 17, 2021

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Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Today’s Old Testament selection, from Isaiah’s “Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant of God,” describes God’s Servant as one who “gives his life as an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10) and celebrates the mighty power of that self-offering: “through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear” (53:11). As always during Ordinary Time, this Old Testament reading prepares us for today’s longer form Gospel. Jesus incarnates the redemptive suffering that Isaiah foresaw in the offering of God’s Servant, as well as the covenantal restoration that the Servant’s sacrificed achieved. The reading from Hebrews confirms our finding peace in continually learning from Jesus, whatever our deepest flaws and trials: for Jesus, our “great high priest” (Hebrews 4:14) is not “unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,” for Jesus was “tested in every way” that we are (4:15).


MISUNDERSTANDING JESUS

Throughout this part of Ordinary Time, Mark’s Gospel tracks the disciples’ progressive misunderstanding about Jesus’ mission and the nature of discipleship. We heard Jesus make two predictions about his Passion on Sundays in September, and just before today’s Gospel episode, Jesus informed the Twelve: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise” (Mark 10:33–34). Despite Jesus’ three predictions and his definition of “glory” and “power” as serving others in humility, James and John still imagine Jesus as bound for a glorious earthly messiahship. How moving that Jesus, rather than scolding James and John as he had previously rebuked Peter, instead begins teaching them patiently, “You do not know what you are asking” (10:38).


SELF-EXAMINATION

Knowing that Jesus’ throne of glory is also a “throne of grace,” from which Jesus bestows “mercy and grace for timely help” (Hebrews 4:16), today’s Gospel suggests sincere self-examination: How do we approach Jesus and make our requests? What do we ask for: what Jesus wants us to do or, like James and John today, do we demand “whatever we want” from Jesus? Does the world in which we live and work focus our hearts on glory to the right and power on the left? Or does “the cup we drink,” “the baptism” we’ve received inspire us to gladly become servants of all, like the Jesus who has made us his disciples? Do we also avoid imitating the “indignant ten” other Apostles who rebuked James and John? Or are we also quick to see the errors of others and rash in passing judgment on them? How do we live in response to Jesus who gave his life “as a ransom for many”?

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