A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah
This is the last of Isaiah’s “suffering servant” poems. Can one person take on the sufferings of a whole people, a whole nation? The Israelites thought that was possible, and we believe that Jesus is the ultimate suffering servant. He suffered and died for all of us.
What does that say about our own sufferings? To seek out suffering is, of course, not healthy. We do not need to look for suffering. It will find us. So, how should we deal with it? There are times of extreme and extended suffering. It may be very intense, and it does not seem to go away. The key is to reach out rather than turn within. A burden shared is always lighter even though it does not take away the suffering immediately. Knowing that you are heard and embraced on some level is healing. During times of deep suffering we need to find sources of life that will give us at least a little joy. And we need to know that Jesus, “the Suffering Servant,” is always with us. It is possible that our suffering, like his, may become “redemptive suffering.” Have you experienced this redemptive suffering? Has something good come out of something that was so hard? Maybe it has and maybe it will again if you go deep with the Spirit of Jesus in your suffering. It may become a source of life for you as hard as that can seem when you are in the midst of the pain.
“Lord, may your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you.” God’s mercy comes with our trust in him. He tells us repeatedly, “Do not be afraid.” Trust him.
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
In the Jewish tradition, there was a high priest who was the only one who could enter the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem once a year to offer a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the whole nation.
In Jesus, we have the ultimate high priest—not one “who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who has been tested in every way, yet without sin.” Jesus is one of us, and the power of his suffering and his unity with the Father brings us the forgiveness of our sins.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
James and John ask Jesus, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Imagine that! What chutzpah! Two great saints and founders of the Church were at times arrogant. Jesus lets them know in no uncertain terms that they are off base. Jesus then uses this opportunity to teach all the apostles an important lesson. He refers them to the mode of leadership among the Gentiles who ruled over their people harshly. Then he tells them a powerful truth that has often been ignored in the Church over the centuries: “But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant. … “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
If we want to follow Jesus, we also must serve, not dominate, in our families, our relationships, our businesses, our communities, and our parish. That does not mean we should be doormats to be taken advantage of, but our leadership must be that of service. That is a delicate balance. None of us always get it right, but that is our calling.
Pope Francis is calling the Church, especially the bishops, to be servant-leaders, not dominators. Pray that, during the Synod of Bishops in Rome, they will respond to this call to leadership as they discuss many issues that affect the lives of us all. Let us pray for them.
Photo by Jomarc Cala on Unsplash
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.