Service to Others Given From a Loving Heart

10-17-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

If you reflect upon the first and second reading at Mass this weekend, you may conclude that the readings balance each other and offer us some kind of equilibrium and strength for us to continue in our journey as disciples of the Lord. Most people find the first few words of the first reading absolutely shocking as Isai­ah writes: "The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity." How can this please God? How can people being crushed please God? How are we to understand this? Most people conclude that God seems to allow the suffering of the innocent to go on and on, with no intervention or relief.

This first reading focuses mainly on the suffering of the innocent one. The Prophet Isaiah proclaims loudly that through this suffering, and not after, many peo­ple will be saved. This line of thought continues in the second reading. This is all to suggest to us that when our idea of suffering and our idea of God conflict, then our idea has to change. We must realize that God does not exist calmly in the heavens above it all, but actually suffers with the innocent one. Indeed it is to this last, inno­cent suffering one to whom we can look for help in our time of need.

The sons of Zebedee were all for triumph and success and not about effort or difficulty i.e. the human suffering. They did not care one bit about human difficul­ties—the inevitable suffering. In this Gospel passage, note how Jesus was very calm and patient when he gave James and John his full attention. Jesus asked them about their willingness to stand up under fire. They told Jesus of course they would stand up to any adversity they might have to face in following Him on their way to their desired seats at the right and left.

Jesus assured them that there would be enough trouble and problems to go around, but he was less certain about their final rewards. These comments reveal the human nature of Jesus as he identifies with human limitations. He tells them they will all share His journey in the coming days. Because of their sharing in the journey of Jesus, they will also share His reward which is not His to give. The Father will give them their reward as that is the doing of the Father. We also will share in this reward if we complete our journey with Jesus.

In this passage Jesus reminds them the sign of greatness is that of service. The authentic leader is the one who serves. Jesus gives the followers very different and new norms which contradict the society of then, and even now. We are reminded that the greatest of people is the one who serves the very least of people. Service must al­so come from the heart. In our journeying with Jesus it is our service to others given from a loving heart that matters. Our reward will be great because we faithfully served the least. The Christian Life is not about pleasing powerful or famous people, but serving those who are in need.