29th Sunday – OTB

Isaiah 53:10-11                  Hebrews 4:14-16              Mark 10:35-45

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A priest went into a Washington, D. C. barber shop for a haircut. When the barber finished, the priest asked him what the charge was and the barber responded, ―No charge, Father, you are serving the Lord and I consider my service rendered to you as a service to the Lord.‖ The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop he found at his front door a stack of usable Christmas cards and a note of thanks from the priest. A few days later, a police officer went to the same barber for a haircut. When he went to pay, the barber said, ―No charge, officer. I consider it a service to our community because you serve our community. The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop there were a dozen donuts at the front door and a note of thanks from the policeman. A few days after this an influential senator came in for a haircut. ―No charge, Senator, I consider it a service to my country.‖ The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop there were two congressmen waiting for their chance for the barber’s free service, carrying a note of thanks from the Senator!

We are in the election year, just a few more days for you all to choose the next president of the United States. (You all know that I cannot vote since I am not a citizen). I urge you to watch the news and read church articles and have a clear knowledge of why you want this or that person to be your next President. I request all those who have the eligibility to vote, go for voting. A joyful Christian is also a Faithful Citizen. Today’s scripture readings also give us some guild lines to choose right person as the leader of the nation. Scripture readings describe leadership as the sacrificial service of others and offer Jesus as the best example. They also explain the servant leadership of Jesus, pinpointing service and sacrifice as the criteria of greatness in Christ’s kingdom.

The first reading is a messianic prophecy taken from the Fourth Servant Song in the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It tells how the promised Messiah would save mankind by sacrificing himself as the atonement for our sins. Jesus did this sacrificial service of love for us as the Suffering Servant by offering his life on the cross as an offering for sin, interceding for us and taking our punishment on himself.

The request of James and John revealed their lack of understanding of true leadership. They were looking for positions of power and prestige. They thought that leadership came from where you sat rather than how you served. Jesus gave them a sharp rebuke when he said, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” In Scripture ―cup‖ and ―baptism‖ are sometimes images of suffering. To drink the cup is to accept the reality of suffering and to do God’s will in the midst of it, as Jesus did in Gethsemane. Those who follow the way of Jesus and seek to imitate his example of servant leadership must be willing even to suffer for others.

“I discovered that Service is Joy”: It may sound unbelievable, but it is true that Asia’s first Nobel Prize winner in Literature (1913), Rabindranath Tagore, was behind the three great national anthems of three great nations, viz. India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. He was also the first non-westerner to win the Nobel Prize in literature. He did so in 1913. He wrote this short poem: “I slept and dreamt that life was Joy; then I awoke and realized that life was Service. And then I went to work – and, lo and behold, I discovered that Service is Joy”. Today’s gospel teaches us that true happiness comes from surrendering ourselves completely in humble service to God through Christ. And all we need is a servant’s heart, mind, eyes and touch.

Let us continue to reflect throughout this week on the words of Jesus: “Whoever wishes to be great must be a servant”. Today in Rome Pope Benedict will canonize a new American saint – Kateri Tekakwitha. Kateri drank deeply from the cup of Christ’s suffering and made herself the servant of others.  It is a joy to say, “St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us and help us to be humble servants.”

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