October 17, 2009
Anticipated Sunday Mass
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Rev. Fr. Nicandro Lim Jr.
A homily delivered in St. Mary’s Church, Bunbury, Autralia
First Reading: Isaiah 53:10-11
Psalm: Psalm 33:4-5, 18-20, 22
Second Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16
35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man's foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. 40 "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. 41 He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42 And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."
“...James and John said to Jesus, ‘Grant us to sit one at your right and one at your left when you come into your glory.’ Jesus said to them, ‘You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized in the way I am baptized?” – Mark 10: 37 - 38
What good can it bring us if we possess all power and authority of heaven above or the earth below us? What can happen to us if we are entrusted with the privilege of becoming the master of everything? Will it lead us to greatness? Will greatness give us peace? Will it lead us to happiness, satisfaction, or even fulfillment?
Someone told me that in one way or the other, we all nurse a secret dream of glory. We daydream that in some way we will stand out and be recognized. And so, there are times we fantasize about great achievements that will set us apart from all others to be famous. And the way we daydream vary from time to time but inside them, we are always at the centre - the most admired person in the room, the one scoring the winning goal, the actor picking up the Academy award, the author writing the best-seller, the intellectual winning the Nobel Peace Prize, or even just the one in the circle who tells the best story. But then, what we are chasing at in all these? Do we really want to be noticed, appreciated, or to become unique from all others so that we can be duly recognized and be loved? Will it give us peace? Will it lead us to happiness, to satisfaction, or even to fulfillment?
I was told that having such secret dream is not bad in itself. I was told that what’s less healthy in this is how we envision that glory for ourselves. Why? Because in all our fantasies, glory almost always consists in being famous, in standing out, in achieving a success that makes others envious, in somehow being the best-looking or the brightest or the most talented person in the room. In our fantasy, glory means having the power to actuate ourselves in ways that set us above others, even if that is for a good motive. Before Jesus was born, good-hearted and religious people prayed for a Messiah to come and, in their fantasy, that Messiah was generally envisaged as a worldly superstar, a person with a superior heart and superior muscles, a Messiah who would reveal the superiority of God by out-muscling the bad.
However, what do we see in the Gospels? We see in the gospels that real glory doesn’t consist in out-muscling the bad or anyone else but in Jesus Christ crucified. He was offered precisely to challenge us and not to prove us that he was special by doing some spectacular gesture that would leave all of his detractors stunned and helpless: “If you are the Son of God, prove it, come down off the cross! Save yourself!”
With a subtlety that’s so easy to miss, the Gospels teach us a very different lesson: On the cross, Jesus proves that he is powerful beyond measure, not by doing some spectacular physical act that leaves everyone around him helpless to make any protest, but in a spectacular act of the heart wherein he forgives those who are mocking and killing him. That is real glory, and that is the one thing of which we really should be envious, namely, the compassion and forgiveness that Jesus manifested in the face of jealousy, hatred, and murder.
Now, we see this illustrated in the Gospels in the incident where James and John came to Jesus and ask him to give them the seats of glory at his side. Jesus takes their request seriously and does not, on that occasion, caution them against pride. Rather he asks them: “Can you drink from the cup [of suffering] that I shall drink?” In naiveté, they answered: “We can!” Jesus replies: “The cup that I shall drink you shall drink, but as for the seats [of glory] at my right hand or left, these are not mine to give.”
What Jesus was saying, in effect, was this: You will taste suffering, everyone will, and that suffering will make you deep. But, it won’t necessarily make you deep in the right way. Suffering can make you deep in compassion and forgiveness, but it can also make you deep in bitterness and anger. However, only compassion and forgiveness can bring glory into your lives.
Jesus defines glory very differently than we do. Real glory, for him, is not the glory of winning a gold medal, of being a champion, of winning an Oscar, or of being an object of envy because of our looks or our achievements. Glory consists in being deep in compassion, forgiveness, and graciousness - and these are not often spawned by worldly success, by being better-looking, brighter, richer, or better muscled than those around us.
We all nurse the secret dream of glory. Partly this is healthy, a sign that we are emotionally well. However, this is something that needs to grow and mature inside of us. Our secret dream of glory is meant to mature so that eventually we will begin, more and more, to envision ourselves as standing out, not by talent, looks, muscles, and speed, but by the depth of our compassion and the quality of our forgiveness.
Let me ask you again, what good can it bring us if we possess all power and authority of heaven above us or earth below us? What can happen to us if we are entrusted with the privilege of becoming the master of everything? Will it lead us to greatness? Will greatness give us peace? Will it lead us to happiness, to satisfaction, or even to fulfillment? Think of Jesus and you’ll see what real glory or greatness means.
In the name of the Father...