29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. Mark 10:35-45.
AIM: To encourage the hearers to find fulfillment through service.
ATeacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you,@ the brothers James and John say to Jesus in the gospel reading we have just heard. They are asking Jesus to sign a blank check. They will fill in the amount when they get it. Jesus might have told the two that their request was presumptuous. That would have put them on the defensive. People who feel they must defend themselves are not open to new insights. So Jesus asks simply: AWhat do you wish me to do for you?@
AGrant that in your glory we may sit one at your right hand and the other on your left.@ That was presumptuous. Jesus still does not rebuke them. Instead he tells them that they have no idea what they are asking. To drive home the lesson he challenges them with a question: ACan you drink of the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?@
AWe can,@ the brothers reply lightheartedly.
Clearly they have no idea what lies ahead for the Master they love and revere. The cup Jesus refers to will contain bitter suffering. His baptism will be, this time, not in water but in blood. Had James and John understood that, they would not have been so eager to claim places on his right and left. Those places, Jesus tells them, are Afor those for whom it has been prepared@ C a reference, we recognize today, to the two thieves between whom Jesus would be crucified.
Patiently Jesus explains that this whole contest for power and honor is totally unacceptable among his followers. AWhoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.@ Jesus reinforces this teaching with his own example: AFor the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.@ The first citizens of God=s kingdom are those who, like Jesus himself, seek not to be served, but to serve. On this
Sunday we think of the countless
women and men all over the world who are happy to live for years far from their
homelands, to serve as missionaries, bringing to others the gospel B the good news that God loves sinners
with a love that will never let us go. They have discovered the secret of true
happiness, and deep joy. Let me give you two examples. Both are women. Mission
The first is Mother Teresa, now Bl. Teresa of
She died eighteen years ago in Calcutta .
At her death the only things she owned were two white saris edged in blue and a
wooden bucket to wash in. Born eighty-seven years before in India , at age
eighteen she traveled to Dublin/Ireland to become a Sister of Loretto. She
never saw her home, or her mother, again. The Sisters sent her to Albania India, where she eventually became principal of
a school for girls in .
In 1946 she was traveling by train to her annual retreat when she received what
she termed Aa call within a call: to give up all
and follow Jesus into the slums C to serve him in the poorest of the
She began in a single room, with no companions and five rupees, then about a dollar. She started a school for slum children. Later she began caring for people dying in the streets C the start of several hostels for the dying which continue in
today. Slowly others joined her. Over the next half-century the growth of
Mother Teresa=s Missionaries of Charity became a
twentieth century miracle. In a day in which, in our country alone, over
100,000 Sisters left the convent, Mother Teresa=s Sisters numbered, at her death,
3,700 in 122 countries C all inspired by a
woman who sought not to be served but to serve, to be the slave of all. Calcutta
My second example is a young woman from
came to the parish where I was then serving, at age twenty-one, as a Vincentian
volunteer working in an inner city school. She called the children with whom
she worked “Virtue Builders” – because, she said, “they need so much patience
and love.” Soon after her arrival she asked me to be her spiritual director. Early
on it became clear that she wanted to give her life to God, as a religious
Sister. I’ll let her tell her own story, just as she sent it to me this summer.
She gave it the title: Ohio
I have never been kissed. I’ve never had a boyfriend either. This may be shocking, and some of you might be wondering, “Then how can you become a Sister? You don’t know what it is like?” I’ve gotten this line before, and I’ve put a lot of prayer and thought into it. No, I am not afraid of romance, and I am not scared of vulnerability. I have found the person with whom I want to spend the rest of my life. Isn’t that every girl’s dream?
Trust me, I’ve had my share of crushes, but not too many of course. When your future spouse is the Son of the living God, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, one’s standards for men are pretty high. But, I have met a handful of holy young men that have made my heart flutter. There was actually one quite recently. Yeah, discernment + major crush – that’s tricky.
As I grew closer to making this huge decision with my life, I often took a trip down memory lane to understand my love life a little better. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been captured by the liturgy and all things relating to Church. Obviously, as a child, I didn’t grasp all of the theology, but I knew something spectacular was happening. As I grew in wisdom and grace, the mystery/miracle of the Mass slowly unraveled in my heart and mind. Christ drew me nearer and nearer to Him as time passed. Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, I gave my heart to Christ. He’s had it ever since, even if I didn’t recognize it.
Along the way, I’ve been infatuated with certain young men. Yet, when I asked myself if I wanted a relationship, I wasn’t so sure. I never did pursue a serious relationship with someone. I used to wonder why I never did that, but couldn’t quite figure it out. In hindsight, I see that my heart was struggling to make a choice. When your heart belongs to someone, it is nearly impossible to give it away or share it for that matter. When it came down to it, my heart couldn’t be divided.
During this recent crush, I had many heart to hearts with a wise and wonderful Sister. My heart was struggling with this potential division. She listened to all my woes and was patient with me (probably more than she should have been). In the end, it came down to one question. She asked, “What is the deepest desire of your heart?” Immediately, I had my answer. My heart wanted the Lord, and He wanted it in return. Ask anyone who’s been in love; the heart wants what the heart wants. Why fight it? So, yes I know I want to be a Sister. My heart belongs to My Beloved. It can never belong to anyone else.
Today that young woman is a Sister in renewable yearly vows with the Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr St. George in Alton/Illinois. She has told me more than once: “I love convent life.” In a letter to her mother she said it was a life of joy.
Somewhere in this church right now there is a young woman whom God is calling to be Sister; and somewhere there is a young man who God wants to be a priest. “I’m not good enough,” you say? Well, you’re right there. None of us is good enough. God doesn’t call us because we’re good enough. He calls us because he loves us. So if he is calling you, go for it! He is calling you to wonderful life, and to the joy about which that young Sister wrote her mother. How do I know that? I know it because I have that joy too. I answered the Lord’s call over 61 years ago. And I have never regretted it – not one single day.