29th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B
Is 53:10-11, Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22, Heb 4:14-16, Mk 10:35-45
If you have ever had the opportunity to talk to a recruiter in the Marine Corps, you will notice that they often walk around in their dress blue uniforms, looking very sharp and crisp and handsome. The Marines do this on purpose – it is part of their mystique, it is what draws young men and women into the corps to serve the country. What guy wouldn’t want to have a cool sword, nice threads and a Tank to drive on the weekends? What we don’t see are the endless hours of toil and discipline and hard work that go along with the uniform.
Dress Blues on the Road to Jerusalem
In today’s Gospel, Jesus and his Apostles are going through a similar problem. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem where He is going to suffer and die. He knows the road ahead and his Apostles are caught up in a classic “Dress Blues” moment. I can just see them walking down the road – “Won’t it be cool Lord when you are in your power and we can rule with you – how sweet that will be!” There are at least two ways that we can read the response of the other 10 Apostles, The first is that they are more pious than James and John, and hence their indignation – “How childish of you guys to ask such a lame question – don’t you see?” The other is from the attitude of “Drat! I wanted to be the first to ask that question!” I think that this is truly their source of indignation. The Apostles are indignant with James and John not because they asked to be on Christ’s right and left, but the other 10 didn’t think of that question first!
Be Christian – Be “Like Christ”
Jesus takes this moment to teach his Apostles, and us, what it means to be his followers, to love him. The word Christian means ‘Like Christ’ – and today's Gospel makes it clear that our way to salvation is to love as Christ loved, and to serve as Christ served.
Sacraments of Service
There are two sacraments of service in the Catholic Church – Marriage and Holy Orders. Both have their “shiny, glossy covers” that are similar to the sharp dress blue uniforms of the U.S. Marines, and both have their “reality checks” in which we discover as James and John did that we are called to a ministry of service.
Dress Blues for Marriage
For marriage the “Dress Blues” is a mother snuggling a quiet, peaceful baby just reflecting on the wonder of the love that created this beautiful delicate life that has been entrusted to her. It is a Father coaching his kids in soccer or baseball and seeing them succeed in ways that he couldn’t. It is seeing a married couple deeply in love with one another, caring for each other and walking together.
Baby Blues for Marriage
Marriage also has its “Baby Blues side”. This comes with the first kid when Mom is sitting up late at night with a cranky kid that won’t settle down, or Dad is stuck changing a poopy diaper that somehow has exploded all over the place. We don’t often use these images when we speak of marriage, but they are the heart of the service of love that marriage calls us to.
This is what is happening to James, John and the other Apostles. They have the “rose colored glasses” view of the Kingdom, and Jesus is reminding them of the way of the Cross.
Dress Blues for Holy Orders
For Holy Orders, the best way to speak about the “Dress Blues” moment is to share with you a little bit about my own vocation to be a Deacon. When I first knew that God was calling me to be a Deacon I was very excited, but at the same time I kept it a great secret. The only person that I spoke about my vocation about was my wife. I told her that I thought that Christ was calling me to follow him in His life of service, but that part of following that calling meant to wait on her discernment. To ensure that she had the freedom of discernment, I told no one for over three years.
Talking with the Archdiocese
After years of prayer and quiet discernment Tina and I finally decided to speak to the Deacon in charge of Deacons at the Archdiocese about my vocation. I was expecting a Marine Corps recruiter – “Let me sign you up Son!” This is how I imagined that James and John thought when the approached Jesus. That is not what I encountered – Rather Deacon Al said to me – The life of a Deacon is a life of service – a life of sacrifice, of setting yourself last of all – so that they can come to know Christ. In his own way he was calling my attention to the tough times that lie ahead just as Christ points out the passion to his disciples.
Can you drink the cup? - Why do we do it!
Jesus challenges the Apostles, and he challenges us – “Can you drink the cup that I am to drink? Can you be baptized with the baptism that I will be baptized?” – That is – do you have the courage to walk the whole road to Calvary? Do you have the strength to give yourself fully to your spouse? To the Church? Marriage and Holy Orders are not about being served but about serving. We do this every day when we go to work, or get the kids off to school. When we do these simple things, we are following Christ.
No Pain, No Gain
My drill instructor in the military said a very similar thing to me in boot camp – he said “No Pain, No Gain!” – "No Service, No Reward!"
Quiet Prayer on the way of the Cross
Sometimes it is difficult to see that our day-to-day actions make a difference in the lives of anyone – that is part of the Gospel today. Christ shows us that part of the secret to sanctification is to offer our daily work, our daily sacrifices in prayer. Uniting our sufferings to the sufferings of Christ on the cross.
Being a Mom or Dad is not about having kids to serve you, but rather it is about building a life of service to one another – first as husband and wife, then as Mother and Father in order to allow ourselves to be transformed by the practice of selfless love.
The first Order of Holy Orders is Service - Diakonia
Being a Priest or Deacon is not about leading or being in charge – it is about surrendering your own wants and needs in order to care for the needs of the Body of Christ – the Church. The first step in the ordained life is to be ordained Deacon – the ministry of Diakonia is a ministry of service. Before any priest is ordained a priest he is first ordained Deacon. Before any Bishop is ordained Bishop he is ordained Deacon. The heart of ministry in the Church is the heart of the Gospel.
Can you Drink the Cup?
Christ say’s that “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." In the same way we are not Mothers and Fathers, Deacons and Priests to be served, but to serve, and to give our life so that our children at home and in this flock can have a rich and fruitful spiritual life! Our Savior is challenging us in our lives for the week ahead – Can you drink His cup?