A HOMILY FOR THE TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE “B” – 10/21/18 SMG
+ Pax et Bonum! Peace and goodness to you this day!
You know, most of the time, when we think of the Apostles, we think of basically nice guys, in robes, with long beards, maybe sitting around a campfire singing “Kumbaya”. And yet, in our Gospel today, we get reminded that especially James and John, were really not like this. Now, we know, that James and John were quite possibly the youngest of the Apostles, and that John was the youngest, perhaps even a young teen, when Jesus called him and his brother, to come and follow Him. We know that James and John had nicknames, they were called “Sons of Thunder”. Sounds like a motorcycle gang, doesn’t it? In fact, we know from Scriptures that Jesus Himself called them this. Now, you don’t get a nickname like “Sons of Thunder” for no reason. James and John were kinda the biker apostles. James and John were not bashful. These were rough-hewn guys, who spent their brief adolescence working for their father on fishing boats. They were amazing, colorful characters, and perhaps that’s why Jesus seems to have such a special relationship with both of them. These two young apostles would never back away from a confrontation. They might even have looked forward to one. They could be very aggressive. And they could also be very insensitive.
Remember, it was James and John, who when the Samarian people wouldn’t listen to Jesus, who wanted to call down fire from Heaven on them. As we see today, it is also James and John, who in Mark’s Gospel, right after Jesus tells all the Apostles that He is must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die, that James and John blurt out, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask, Grant us that we may sit one at your right hand, and the other at your left, in Your Glory.” Can you believe that? No wonder the other Apostles were so upset with them. Was this really the best time to bring this up? It was like having a friend tell you that they are dying from cancer and have a week to live, and James and John are asking, “Can I have your car?” James and John said what they thought. Like so many of us, they were hopelessly human, and just not the most sensitive of guys.
Jesus showed James and John, and the rest of the Apostles, that getting the best seats in the Kingdom of God wasn’t going to be about being great, or being powerful, or being aggressive. Jesus makes it clear today that authority and leadership in the Kingdom of God is going to be about self-giving and service, even giving over to the point of suffering and possibly even one’s death! Jesus is completely redefining what glory and greatness are here. Discipleship and authority are being completely redefined for the Apostles, and for us! What is also being given a whole new meaning is suffering. Both James and John are asked by Jesus if they can share in His cup of suffering, and they say they can. And so indeed they will. Suffering is being forever connected to our redemption, not just the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, but also every moment of our own suffering in this world, when we connect our suffering, to Jesus, to the suffering servant, from Isaiah, from our first reading today.
This is so important for us to hear today. There are those among us here today who are suffering greatly. Maybe it’s the death of a loved one, or a loved one’s illness, maybe it’s a loss of a job, or medical crisis in our own life, or concerns about a child, or worries about our marriage, of financial concerns, or any number of other things that cause us to suffer. Or maybe we’ve been through things like these in the recent past. Or maybe we are going to face some of these things in our near future. We all know suffering. And today, with this encounter with James and
John, suffering is being redefined, every bit as much as glory and greatness. Jesus Christ is completely reordering our notions of life, or greatness, and of suffering. Suddenly, a lot of things that our world accepts as all figured out, are changed completely. The way of the world is turned completely upside down, and lives are changed.
And that’s what Jesus did for James and John. God transformed them! The Sons of Thunder became outstanding leaders in the early Church. They learned that Jesus had a better way! They grew up and grew into the men of Faith that Jesus knew that they both could be. James would be the first of the Apostles to die for the Faith. And John, well John would live the Faith longer than any of the Apostles, staying true to Jesus until he dies, nearly seventy years after Jesus did.
But this Gospel message is NOT just for James and John. It is for all of us. We all have a little bit of that Sons of Thunder thing in us. Today, Jesus turns our worlds and our notions of life upside down, so that we too can see that He has a better way for us! We’ve got to give Him that chance. The way and the values of this world will never work, and they certainly do not last. But the ways of God, and His Heavenly Kingdom, can get us to eternal life. James and John got that. Do we?
+ May God help us to seek Him and His greatness, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN !!!
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!