29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 22, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Readings: Isaiah 53:10-11
Psalm 33:4-5; 18-22
Theme: If There Be Humility
To be in this world and yet not of it is Christ’s call to us.
We are to resist arrogance. Our witness to the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ is to be accompanied with an attitude of servant hood. After all ‘knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.’ (I Cor 8:1) There will be little notice or care about our belief in ‘the holy catholic church’ if our commitment is marred with arrogant sinful pride. Jesus addresses this attitude with these words: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
In a world filled with Cathedrals and Temples, and big budget church productions that rival Hollywood, it is difficult to remember it all started ‘on a hill faraway’ where there ‘stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.’ Jesus promised James and John a place in His kingdom through what the early church fathers understood as the ‘cup of crucifixion and the baptism of death (or martyrdom).’ These sons of thunder believed they were up to it. Of course we have the understanding of hindsight. But we can be just as off key as James and John and feel ourselves very important and indispensable.
Jesus teaches us that his kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is a civilization of life and love. We resemble that heavenly kingdom best when we seek to be the servant of all and the master of none. Is it any wonder that men like Peter and Paul, James and John who served their Lord and His church left such an impact? These men loved not their lives unto death. None of these leaders sought such an end. Nor should we. However, they took Christ’s yoke upon themselves and learned from him who is meek and lowly and whose burden is light. As far as I can tell, this still is the way the Holy Spirit leads us in our walk in the Lord.
Isaiah states the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity. Jesus, who was disfigured because of the violence done to him, nonetheless laid down his life as a ransom for many. He could have called ten thousand angels to save him from his appointed hour, but instead he humbled himself to accept the obscurity and death of the cross for us men and for our salvation. The call we see in Christ’s humiliation is a calling to be in solidarity with others. Parishes need look no further for a church growth strategy. Leaven’s work is imperceptible, but powerful and effective. Leaven gets hidden in the dough and is in solidarity with it. The church’s work in the world is as when a little leaven leavens the entire dough. Some may think this process too cumbersome and unrewarding. St. Chrysostom said, “God wants for nothing and has need of nothing. Yet, when he humbled himself, he produced such great good, increased his household, and extended his kingdom. Why, then, are you afraid that you will become less if you humble yourself?”
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests yet you had nowhere to lay your head. In your poverty you bathed mankind in your love; yet too often we are unwilling to entertain angels disguised as strangers. May we be content with what we have and seek to know you and make you known. Amen.