Jesus Divorced Position From Prestige
Wednesday: Eighth week of the Year May 25, 2016
Mark 10:32-45. Year I: Sirach 36:1-17; Psalm 79:8-13; Year II: 1Peter 1:18-25; Psalm 147:12-20.
It should encourage us to realize what slow learners Jesus’ first disciples were. He has already told them twice that he is going to be killed and rise again (Mark 8:31, 9:31). It had some effect, because “their mood was one of wonderment,” but Jesus feels he has to tell them again. As soon as he does, James and John show they haven’t understood anything, not even the warning he has just given against desiring to be “first” (10:31). They come up and ask Jesus to give them the first places in the Kingdom! “Let us sit at your right and left hand when you come into your glory.”
Jesus must have wanted to shoot them on the spot! But he was extremely patient. He just said, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” meaning the cup of his passion that in his moment of weakness even he was going to ask the Father to spare him (14:36). The two brothers, not having any idea what they are saying, answer, “We can.” Jesus assures them that they will, but tells them it is not his job to hand out honors.
The other ten apostles are furious with James and John for trying to get ahead of them. So Jesus repeats what has already told them twice (9:35, 10:31): in his Kingdom, if you want to be on top, put yourself at the bottom.
Then he says something so radical that even today we do not understand or accept it, much less bear witness to it. Like the apostles, we are slow learners! Jesus calls them all together and says to them, “You know how among the Gentiles those in authority lord it over them; their great ones make their importance felt.”
Of course. It is a basic principle in business, politics and the military: the more authority you have, the more respect you get. Executives have more prestige than janitors. Officers are not called by their first names. Jesus says it is not to be that way in his Church. In the community of the believers, function is divorced from prestige. All get equal signs of respect. No one, even those with the greatest authority, should be regarded or treated as “higher” than anyone else. Just as “power corrupts,” protocol blinds. It makes us forget the one dignity that overrides all others: the dignity of being divine by Baptism. We are sons and daughters of God. Nothing can be added—including the Sacrament of Holy Orders or consecration as a bishop—that makes anyone greater than that. If we treat some as if they were more important than others, for any reason at all, we implicitly deny the faith.
Jesus came to serve: to live and die for us. If we can’t drink that cup we deserve the lowest place at his table.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Think what would happen if we really treated all as equals in the Church.