Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lead Us in the Way of Justice

Reward those who have hoped in you, and let your prophets be proved true. Hear the prayer of your servants, for you are ever gracious to your people; and lead us in the way of justice.  Thus it will be known to the very ends of the earth that you are the eternal God.  Sirach 36:21-22

”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.”  Mark 10:43-45

The first degree of humility, then, is that a person keep the fear of God before his eyes and beware of ever forgetting it.  (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7: On Humility)

Jesus turns the tables on end…again.  The world does not know what to make of this prophet-savior-king and neither do his closest followers.  Jesus does indeed “give new signs and work new wonders” in ways that differ from the current leaders of the world – in his time and ours.   

Today’s Gospel has two distinct sections.  First, Jesus gives a preview of the Passion (ransom) that will take place in Jerusalem.  However, despite the serious tone of this cautionary tale, James and John proceed to ask for honored places in heaven violating all the tenets of humility that have marked their friendship with Jesus. 

In reaction, Jesus shows remarkable restraint.  After two cycles about teaching to serve the least, we can palpably feel Jesus’s exasperation.  The request of James and John for the top two Cabinet posts (and for a share in the glory) must of necessity involve a share in Jesus’ sufferings, the endurance of tribulation and suffering for the gospel.[1]  However, they do not seem to grasp that fact any more than Peter does when he is in peak denial mode. 

Jesus does not admonish them sternly but explains that those honored seats are not his to give.  Jesus moves to a conclusion that fits right in with a soft rebuke of James and John.  Jesus granted the disciples wide ranging authority to heal and forgive sin.  However, any such authority must be exercised in the humble spirit of Jesus, not the spirit of the Gentiles.  Rather than holding leadership above the people, the disciples’ leadership must, like that of Jesus, be rendered as service to others rather than for personal aggrandizement.  “The service of Jesus is his passion and death for the sins of the human race.”  It is almost as if Jesus is saying, “Don’t be like them.  Be like me.”

The next scene in the Gospel according to St. Mark is when Jesus heals the blind Bartimaeus.  James and John are figuratively blind.  We can only hope Jesus was as successful in healing their blindness as he was at healing blind Bartimaeus. 

Jesus, make us see your service as the model for our own leadership in our families, schools, workplaces and activities.  Leadership and service-in-humility are two sides of the same coin.  In the Kingdom, we cannot spend one without spending the other. 

Today – like any day – the media screams of the need for justice and servant leadership.  Cleveland police. Immigration reform.  Child abuse.  Murder.  It is up to us to speak out for the voiceless and to overcome our own blind-nesses.  It is up to Jesus to lead us in the way of justice in order to overcome our blind-ness. It is up to us to accept the invitation.  

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