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To Serve Like Christ

First Reading: 1 Peter 1:18-25

Beloved:
Realize that you were ransomed from your futile conduct,
handed on by your ancestors,
not with perishable things like silver or gold
but with the precious Blood of Christ
as of a spotless unblemished Lamb.
He was known before the foundation of the world
but revealed in the final time for you,
who through him believe in God
who raised him from the dead and gave him glory,
so that your faith and hope are in God.

Since you have purified yourselves
by obedience to the truth for sincere brotherly love,
love one another intensely from a pure heart.
You have been born anew,
not from perishable but from imperishable seed,
through the living and abiding word of God, for:

“All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like the flower of the field;
the grass withers,
and the flower wilts;
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
This is the word that has been proclaimed to you.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R. (12a) Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.

Gospel: Mark 10:32-45

The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem,
and Jesus went ahead of them.
They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.
Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them
what was going to happen to him.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man
will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death
and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him,
spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death,
but after three days he will rise.”

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him,
“Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, “We can.”
Jesus said to them, “The chalice that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

NAB

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Saint James and Saint John sure had guts, didn’t they? I can imagine Zebedee’s sons slowly sidling up to the King of Kings as they journeyed on the way, saying sweetly, “We want you to do us a little favor, Jesus.” Of course, Christ knows what’s on their minds and in their hearts before they say a word: James and John want honor, glory, and power. They want to rule.

Instead of shooting down their request outright, Jesus asks James and John if they can drink the chalice He shall drink or be baptized with His baptism. They heartily agree that they can, not realizing the chalice and baptism Jesus refers to is eventual suffering and death.

Throughout history, we see time and again that power corrupts. Greed defiles. Envy destroys. Even zeal, when left unchecked, can become tainted, leading erstwhile righteous souls down unintended paths of destruction.

I’ve always suspected the other disciples were indignant with James and John not because they were disturbed by their bold request, but because they hadn’t thought to ask it first.

But Jesus takes care to set them all straight. He turns the tables, assuring the disciples that His kingdom isn’t about yielding great power, but about service and sacrifice: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”

This precept is yet another paradox of living in the kingdom of God: to receive we must give; to be great we must serve; to live we must die.

And yet serving isn’t always easy, especially when we are consistently tasked with assisting difficult people in challenging circumstances. I look at the piles of laundry, the meal plan for the week, the dirty bathrooms, the cluttered bedrooms, the appointments and agenda items, and wish I didn’t have to serve quite so much. But God still calls us to give with a spirit of gratitude and cheerfulness, with generosity and kindness, in spite of our feelings. He calls us to give as His Son gave.

It is only through supernatural grace that we are able to take up our crosses daily and follow Jesus’ profound example of self-giving love.

Today, think about someone you know who is a good example of Christ-like service. In what way could you adopt some of their habits of generosity and selflessness and glorify God? Let us pray for the grace and fortitude to serve as Jesus did.

photo credit

Heather Renshaw is a writer, speaker, and uplifter on a mission to love and serve God with her husband and five children in the Pacific NW. You can learn more about her here.

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