29th Sunday Ordinary Time B

He Gives His Life

One of the most remarkable medical developments in the 1930’s and 1940’s was the blood-bank. Blood was taken from donors to be stored for later transfer into the bodies of those who had themselves suffered a major loss of blood. Rarely, since then, have we heard of the givers of blood charging for that service. Bloodgiving has rather struck people as an act of charity and compassion towards those whose life is endangered. Particularly during World War II those who were donating to the American Red Cross blood banks would vie with each other to become “gallonaires” – donors (at medically prescribed intervals) of a gallon of their life-blood.

Blood-banks were not restricted to the United States. The practice of donating one’s blood spread everywhere. To the Christians of the world the gift of blood was not only something humane, but something Christ-like. Pope Pius XII pointed this out in the fall of 1948. During and after World War II, many Italians had given generously of their blood to save the lives of the thousands who had been wounded or otherwise stricken in the Italian Campaign. In Autumn 1948 a group of these Italian blood donors had a special audience with the Holy Father. Praising their true Christian generosity, he told them “Christ, the supreme and divine donor of His Blood, is your example in a particular way.”

In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah foresees that the death of Christ will be the cause of life for mankind. “If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long line…” (53:10). A moment before, Isaiah had said “By his stripes we were healed” (53:5). Know then, whenever you give blood to your fellow-man that you, like Jesus, are giving of your very self so that others may live.

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q394: James and John come across in today’s Gospel (Mk 10:35-45) as very selfish people. They are only concerned about their own status. How come Jesus picked them as apostles?

We humanoids really are a “controlling” bunch, aren’t we? What do you think would happen if God gave in to our every whim and wish? “Hey God, if you let me win the lottery, then I’ll give 90% of the winnings to the poor…” Think about it: are the circumstances of the poor really on my mind, or is it that other 10% that I am thinking about? If the poor really mattered to us, we wouldn’t worry about the lottery; we would be doing everything within our means to help them right now, not waiting for the lottery results.

It’s all about attitude. James and John (and their mamma) misunderstood what the “kingdom” was all about. They were still thinking that Jesus would be establishing his rule on this earth, like King David centuries before. So since they were very close to Jesus, it seemed only “natural” to them that he would pick his friends to be his chief officers. But even with that misunderstanding, their attitude was clearly “selfish” and controlling – they wanted to get in their bid for the choice positions before the other apostles did.

It would take more time, but eventually all of the apostles would understand. The way of life in the kingdom of God, and the attitude that is required, is one that reflects only concern for God and concern for others. This is a life of Servanthood. We are not called to be controlling, but to be servants. There is a gigantic difference in the attitudes connected with each of those two choices. So, as a disciple of Jesus, how would you describe your attitude towards the immigrant, the poor, the diseased, and the fallen away? Is your love for each and your unconditional willingness to serve them still fully intact?

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Jesus is our model of selflessness; he submitted himself entirely to his Father’s will out of love for us (CCC #536). We have this possibility of becoming “partners” will Jesus, to be a servant just like him – “there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven” (CCC #618).

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Q550: The Prophet Isaiah says that “the Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity” (Isaiah 53:10). How can this be? How can crushing someone possibly please God?

God our Father is neither sadistic nor cruel. There is not even a hint of those negative attributes, if the Isaian passage is properly understood. We are in the area of divine mystery here, so let’s explore this mystery of our faith as best we can.

First of all, we need to remember the Jewish understanding of God’s will back in Jesus’ time. Life was simple. God directly caused everything to happen, both life and death, pleasure and pain. The Jewish understanding of covenant was also simple: God will either reward or punish you, based on your behavior. If you sinned, you would incur the wrath of God, because he is a God of justice. If you repented and changed your ways, you would be restored to right relationship with God, because he is a God of mercy.

But there came the promised New Covenant. Jesus offered his life as a sacrifice for the sins of all humanity. His agony and death were the cup that he asked James and John to share (Mark 10:35-45). He was indeed crushed for our sins, for all the sins of humanity that were unrepented and unforgiven. God did not cause the pain and death of Jesus; rather, he permitted the free will choices of ungodly people to happen during Holy Week, knowing that the end result would bring him great glory. The offer of Jesus’ life was accepted by the Father, as an atonement for the sins of all humanity. Jesus redeemed us all, and won the victory over sin and death. This salvific action of Jesus is what brought the Father great joy and pleasure, because it opened up a way, once and for all, for each one of us to have a restored relationship with Him! The gates of heaven were open once again!

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant – atoning for our faults and making satisfaction for our sins to the Father (CCC #615).

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Can You Drink of My Cup

For several Sundays we have been hearing Jesus making some tough demands of his disciples. But they never seem to get it. Today we hear them again asking for the best places and Jesus once more repeats his demanding message to them and to us. We must try to understand the demands made on us in following Jesus. He calls us to be leaders by serving the needs of others, and he is the perfect example of it. We are called to drink of his cup, which means accepting the reality of suffering in doing God’s work. We don’t have to like it. We may not always succeed in overcoming our reluctance. But even if we fail, Jesus will welcome us back. He knows how hard it is because he experienced the same fear and reluctance in Gethsemane.

Lord Jesus, you give comfort to the sorrowful and strength to those in pain; fill our hearts with your love so that our day may be spent in giving to all around us. Help us say no to our self interests and to follow Your example in the service of others no matter what the cost.

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