29th Sunday of the Year

So what’s on your mind?

Something very profound is being revealed in the gospel today. On the one hand we have the request of the disciples James and John and on the other we have the response to that request of Jesus. The question and answer seem to occupy completely different levels of understanding which are only resolved by reflecting on our own call to discipleship.

I sometimes wonder if as our society travels further and further away from its Christian roots it loses the notion of what sacrifice means. I don’t mean the grand heroic gestures which clearly demonstrate the human spirit at its most majestic, but rather the simple every day acceptances which challenge our capacity to endure and to make sense of what our life is about. We all have our own hopes and ambitions for ourselves and those we love, and these goals which we set are by and large commendable and well intentioned. But what is it that drives them and informs them? How do we apply ourselves in achieving them and ultimately what constrains us and causes us to consider whether we are doing the right thing? In other words how much are we prepared to sacrifice in order to remain honest and true.Perhaps this is most apparent when we come to think about our relationships. One of the crucial (a word derived from the latin word for cross) points about any commitment, is that it seems to demand an element of sacrifice, and if that understanding is lacking or absent then the relationship is on rocky ground. Two people in choosing to commit to live their lives as husband and wife have to be aware from the outset that sacrifice in marriage is elemental to its success, and the mystery is that the sacrifices made often strengthen the commitment given and the bond of love becomes ever deeper and more powerful. It seems that all too easily couples find the call to sacrifice an alien one, which affronts what their original ambition was and thus affords them a reason to choose to separate.
James and John are being taught a vital truth about discipleship and it is one which we must take on board in our own calling. Our own plans and ambitions have to recognise the reality of the sacrifices which we are asked to make on our journey of faith. We know that the cross will confront us however unexpected and unwanted. It will knock us sideways and cause our world to collapse as the implications of the enormity of the demand dawns upon us. Can you drink the cup which I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised? We may well question why and how we are going to be able to cope with what is being asked of us, but it is at this point that the purpose and meaning of sacrifice begins to unfold because what sacrifice does is to draw us ever deeper into an understanding of the mystery of suffering.

Sacrifice calls us to offer something which speaks to the very heart of our faith. We are to become servants of each other and see in the other person the imago Christi so that our own ambitions and hopes, far from being thwarted or blown off course are brought to a newer and deeper fulfilment which outstrips all that we had in mind for ourselves. In a real way we enter into the pathway of discipleship by glimpsing the divine purpose of God’s plan for his creation. We see our lives no longer shaped by what we want for ourselves, but as one moulded after a pattern of love which speaks clearly of offering diakonia and martyria service and witness through our following of Jesus Christ.

 

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