YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: SERVICE IS SELF-SACRIFICE
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
Some time ago we began a new worshipping community and there was a dire need to elect leaders who will help to co-ordinate and organise the activities of this community. Three leaders were elected and entrusted with the responsibility of organising liturgical (worshipping) activities, keeping the surroundings clean, and making a monthly roaster for functionaries. Soon an argument erupted about who should be regarded as the first co-ordinator among the three. We deliberately delayed assigning these roles and these three co- ordinators were told to continue working and that the positions of first, second and third will be assigned in due course. They were told not to rate themselves immediately. The one serves best and who dedicates his life, time and energy for the good of the community will naturally be recognised by those who enjoy the services.
1. JAMES AND JOHN: James and John were fast guys; they approached Jesus to grant them the highest position in his new kingdom. It was clear that these young men neither knew the meaning of true service nor the implication of sitting at the right and left of Jesus. They thought of service as enjoying privileges and setting themselves above others. Therefore, Jesus was quick to correct their false impression of leadership when he said, “You do not know what you are asking…Anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:38, 43-45). By this statement, Jesus taught them that self-sacrifice is the essence of leadership. After all, His life story is a perfect example of selfless service and self-sacrifice and the climax of His self-sacrifice was in laying down His life for others. During His Last Supper Jesus demonstrated the meaning of his sacrificial death when He took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying: “Take and eat, this is my body” (Mark 14:22) and then he took the cup of wine and said: “Take and drink, this is my blood” (Mark 14:23). Similarly, those who are called to serve in any capacity are also expected to allow themselves to be broken and shared for all.
Jesus asked James and John weather or not they were willing to lay down their lives in the service of others. He put this question to them beautifully: “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptised with the baptism with which I am baptised.” As young energetic men, their answer was in the affirmative: “Yes, we can.” Shortly before he offered his body and blood he washed the feet of his disciples and said to them: “If I the Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done” (John 13:14-15). Consequently, those who are in positions of leadership and those who are called to serve must follow his footpath.
3. CHALLENGES OF LEADERSHIP: Prophet Isaiah spoke about a humble suffering servant who would bear the burdens of many and offer his life for many (Isaiah 53:10). The characteristics of this suffering servant perfectly fit the life of Jesus. All those who serve and who are in positions of leadership ought to learn from the leadership qualities of Jesus. There are many challenges that go with service and leadership. Among these are:
a) Bitter Criticism: I have come across people who were once dedicated volunteers in their communities. Some of them were volunteer teachers, catechists, lectors, singers, etc. Some explained that they withdrew their services because of undue criticism from the members of the community.
b) The Danger of Being Misunderstood: When one choses to serve, he/she should be ready to be misunderstood. No matter how selfless and how sincere someone is, there would always be people who would interpret your selflessness as channel for self-seeking and some hidden ambition. Jesus himself suffered the pain of false accusation when the Pharisee said He was using the power of Beelzebub the prince of demons to cast out devils.
c) Servant Leaders as Change Agents: Leaders who are determined to bring about positive and radical change in their communities often meet stiff resistance and opposition. This can be very discouraging, especially when they have to go through persecution.
d) Service Begins at Home: There are people who are so engrossed in serving others and neglect to take care of their families. There is a cartoon, which says: I love the human race but its people around me that I can’t get along with. This is the case with people who love humanity and hardly relate with someone next door. Therefore, humble services should begin from our homes, families, and neighbours and extend to our communities and others.
The Greatest Leaders: Think about your favourite leader or saint and you will discover that this people are distinguished not so much by what they did, but by how they carried about their duties. Mother Teresa would say, it is not the work that you do which matters but the love that you put into what you do.
MISSION SUNDAY: This Sunday is world Mission Sunday and Pope Francis reminds the youth and everyone about their missionary vocation to serve others. He says, “No one is so poor as to be unable to give what they have, but first and foremost what they are.”
29th Sunday, Year B; Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45