8th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, May 26
Ecclesiasticus 36:1, 4-5, 10-17 / Mark 10:32-45
Lord, show yourself: Give new signs and work new wonders.
After graduating from Georgetown University, Anne Donohue did volunteer work at Covenant House, a shelter for runaways in New York City.During her first year at the shelter, Anne found herself becoming angry with God for letting these kids suffer so much. Why didn't he show them the love that their parents failed to show them? Why didn't God manifest himself to them in some small way, at least? Then it dawned on her. God wants to manifest himself to them. He wants to show his love to them. But God has chosen to do this through us. We are God's hands and heart in our world. We are the way he manifests himself and his love to those around us.
To what extent are we letting God use us to show himself and his love to others? "Love locked in our hearts . . .is like a letter written and not sent." Jane Lindstrom
The greatest thinkers of Israel have understood that God who created man, loved all and wanted to be the Father of all. God does not accept man-made distinctions. For Sirach the question was pressing. Greek culture has made inroads into the formerly monolithic Jewish life. The Maccabean reaction was already simmering and gathering force. Sirach puts it into a hymn addressed correctly to the Lord of all. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. For that he prays. Israel had to learn to respect the Lord in fear. God has sent them many ordeals for their good. They must learn that there is no God, but the Lord. Israel must be one - and strong too -for a united mankind. There is only one holy city, one place where God rests. May the holy Mount Zion rejoice in the songs of praise of all mankind, acknowledging the everlasting God.
“Honour the Lord with generosity... Add a smiling face to all your gifts” says the first reading. The advice of Ben Sirach is for honest persons to thank God by offering sacrifices, but God will not accept sacrifices from dishonest people, for he accepts no bribes.
What about those who give up everything for the sake of the kingdom of heaven? They will not only “inherit heaven” but find happiness on earth in the freedom from worries about losing material goods and the inner freedom of belonging to all, in the joy of winning many brothers and sisters in the community. And curiously enough but realistically, Mark adds that they will retain their happiness and reward even in the contradictions and persecutions they encounter in their endeavours for the kingdom. One must remain free and poor within oneself.
Jesus had made the third announcement of his passion, the most explicit and detailed of the three and he is now on his way to Jerusalem with his disciples. He walks ahead of them: a lonely leader. He cannot discuss or share with his disciples the burden of the decision he had to make alone. They would have advised him not to go. Jesus went in obedience to his father's will. What made him feel still more lonely was that his disciples had not yet learned the basic lesson about their task. James and John asked him for the best position in his kingdom. The others were indignant but quarrelled among themselves who is the greatest. Being in company did not diminish his loneliness. They had not understood him. He did not give in to despondency but picked up the courage to go it alone. In obedience he became the servant of all, the suffering servant of the Lord, the man for others, to the extent of laying down his life for many. He had not come to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.
If we had been to a class to learn a new language, we would know what the experience is like. All our mental energies are focused on what we are hearing and trying to make a connection to how we can understand it. So our ears have to listen, our minds have to think and make the connection, and meanwhile our energies are depleting and draining away. And just after two hours of intensity, we may have a break and we would walk out of the class dazed and apprehensive.
We may be wondering if it is worth it to spend so much time and energy and gaining so little in return. In the gospel, we heard that the disciples who were following Jesus were dazed and were apprehensive.
They have heard a lot of heavy teaching from Jesus about the cost of following Him, about persecutions and in today's gospel about service. When we ponder on the teachings of Jesus deeply, we may also be dazed and apprehensive.
We are like learning a new language - the language of love and service. Jesus is a good Teacher. Let us ask Him to help us understand that language. Then we will know how to love and serve.
Lord our God, we hold you to your promise to those who have left everything for the sake of your kingdom and for the gospel of Jesus Christ your Son. Let them be men and women poor in the things that count on this earth but rich with your love and your grace and with a wealth of friends to whom they can bring our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.