Year B: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: Mark 10: 35-45
Today’s Gospel has a familiar theme: the disciples inability to understand the nature of greatness in the Kingdom of God.
James and John obviously saw the Kingdom as governed by the same rules as earthly ones - where Jesus would sit on a throne and his favourites sit on his right and left. Jesus realised that they did not fully realise what such a request might entail. In fact, when Jesus came into his kingdom, it was to be a criminal on his right and another on his left
Inevitably, the desire for the favoured seats in the Kingdom caused indignation among the other disciples. And so, Jesus again teaches them about the nature of greatness. In the Kingdom, there is no place for those who wish to lord it over others or people who like to make their authority felt.
There have been times in the Church’s history where this teaching has been forgotten and Church leaders have modelled their behaviour on that of pagan rulers rather than on their Master. It is a truism that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and, certainly, when the Church had great temporal power it did not always use it in the way Jesus advocates in the Gospels.
In the Jubilee Year, Pope John Paul II made a public apology for the sins of the Church - acknowledging its misuse of power and abuse of authority. It was a recognition that the temptation which affected James and John and the other disciples is never very far from the life of the Church - and especially those given authority within it.
Most of us do not have such authority in religious matters - but all of us have areas in our life where we may be tempted to wield our own self-importance. This may be in families - or in work-places - or on committees - in anything that tempts us to use an authoritarian approach to get things done.
However, if we look at the life of Jesus, we find a very different model of authority. No-one could deny his effectiveness - nor that he changed the world - but he never lorded it over anyone - or forced people to accept his teaching. In Jesus, people encountered the authority of a love that was prepared to give its life for them.
What does it mean for me?
© 2006 Wellspring