Homily – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The power of appeal

In preparing for the homily this weekend; I asked Brendan: “Brendan, how do you understand the gospel this weekend?”  Brendan very quickly answered, “James and John are like you and me, the parish priest has power and the assistant priest has authority.”  I responded with complete silence.

Today’s gospel tells us that James and John wanted to sit at the right and left side of Jesus in his kingdom.  They were thinking of promotion, thinking of power, authority.  Also, they were thinking that they have the ability, the capacity, and are worthy of higher places.  They asked Jesus to do something unheard of.  This happened even though they had been followers and friends of Jesus for a while and had heard what he had to say frequently: that he had not come to be served but to serve.  How different is the Lord’s attitude from the attitude of those who would be leaders or those who always want to be served, to be admired, and even to be feared!  What these people want is to feel that they are important, bolstering themselves in this way while showing off their importance and looking for ways to gain more power.

We also see in the gospel reading how the other ten apostles were really offended by what James and John said.  And Jesus, trying to minimise the problem and reconcile them, gathered them together and explained that those who consider themselves to be rulers, whoever wants to be first, must be the servant of all.  He reminds them once again that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life for all.

Have we experienced the challenge of this gospel yet?  If we have, that is great because the gospel means to encourage and challenge us to stop and reflect on how the gospel and our lives are related to each other.  We observe too many times that our human temptation is driven towards power and authority.  We can even see this in our own Christian communities.  There are divisions; groups are formed whose aim is ambition and a desire for power, the power that dominates and controls everything.  The power causes more division rather than unity.  Are we like James and John who can see only these unhealthy powers?

Have we thought of a different power?  The power that is not controlling or ordering, but the opposite, is the power of appeal.  The power of appeal comes for example from a disabled person, from a poor or outcast member of society.  This power of appeal inspires our spirit, moves our hearts, and gives energy so that we can help and support others without hesitation.  Only the Good Samaritan recognises the power of appeal from the beaten person, then actually stopped and helped the person in their distress while others tried to avoid and moved away.  It is the power of appeal which the gospel invites us to discover and to achieve this weekend.

Today, let us pause and redirect ourselves again towards the power that helps us to become closer to others; the power that brings peace, unity rather than division, the power that shares love and is inclusive instead of the power of hatred and discrimination.

By Fr Trac




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