In all Scripture Christ speaks to us. We maybe still have catechetical work to do to ensure that all the faithful are helped to listen for the voice of the Lord in all the readings of the Liturgy of the word. There is still maybe a greater sense for the distinction between the Old Testament and New Testament than for the unity of Salvation history related through the Bible as a whole.
The Liturgy of the word gives a ritual prominence to the Gospel reading, but also through its structure indicates something of the unity of Scripture to be discovered in its various parts.
Some of that may be apparent in our celebrations on a Sunday, (perhaps sometimes highlighted in the homily). Hopefully we become still more aware of this as we dwell with the word during the days before Sunday, and returning to it in days following. And hopefully Living Eucharist is able to play its part in assisting with this.
Next Sunday is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time and it offers us a fresh opportunity to know the Lord of all as also the Servant of all.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’
When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be 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.’
James and John present a challenge to the project that Jesus leads. He offers service: they seek for lordship.
And yet, their ambition is also accompanied by a passion for Jesus and his project. There surely is in them a motive that is alien to authentic discipleship, even in its contradiction, but they themselves desire to be authentic disciples. What is called for is a purification of motives, nothing more, nothing less. Jesus challenges them, and encourages them on their way to wholeness in and with him.
How important, and how touching is their assertion, in face of Jesus’ questioning of whether they can follow him in all things: ‘We can’. It may be they witness to something they cannot yet know, but they witness to it all the same.
They have some way to go, and the way will be challenging – not only in the external challenges they face, but the internal conversion needed too. Growing pains are not confined to our actual childhood and adolescence. Coming to human maturity is a life long work, even for apostles.
- Which of your motives grate against your vocation as a disciple?
- What resources can you call on to help with the purification of your motives?
Photograph of detail of lectern in parish church of Ditchling. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.