Daily Reflection
October 19th, 2003
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Isaiah 53:10-11
Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Hebrews 4:14-16
Mark 10:35-45 or 10:42-45

So as to be more available to the grace contained in the Liturgy of the Word, imagine Jesus addressing his disciples while dressed with a kitchen apron on and a towel in his hand.  He is just finishing preparing their supper and drying some dishes before setting them on their table.  The disciples move to assist him, but Jesus seems to be making a deliberate point of his waiting on them.


Jesus came to serve and by his manner of acting, he invites his disciples to follow him.  We pray for the grace to allow Jesus to serve us at the table of our “daily bread.”  We are the served, the receivers, and the fed.

We pray also for the freedom to serve gracefully his brothers and sisters and become part of their “daily bread” as well.  We pray honestly with our own selfish desires to be great and famous and with this awareness we smile in our hearing his words to be last and least.


In the section of the book of Isaiah known as the Book of Consolation, there appear four separate prophecies concerning a “Servant.”  These “Servant Songs” tell of a specifically-called person whose goodness and life will benefit the people of Israel.  All four can seem to predict directly the Messiah, Christ.  Biblical scholars generally agree that the “Songs” actually predict an historical character who predates Jesus.  However, they do apply easily to the Christ of the Gospels.

Our reading today is the fourth “Song” and depicts a “Suffering Servant” whose fidelity to God’s call will be redemptive and yet personally painful.  Though there will be suffering, there will be life and light promised for the future.  This one man will in his person, be a sin offering which will free all from their guilt and death.  It is not physical suffering alone, but the fidelity and trust which will make the suffering redemptive.

The Gospel opens with two of his disciples’ asking Jesus for a favor.  It is quite a human, self-centered request in which they ask for seats or positions of power when the “big day” comes.  Jesus’ reply is more an invitation than a contract of competition.  They are invited to participate in the cup which Jesus knows he must drink as well as whether they can be baptized with the same baptism he will experience.

In reply to their request Jesus tells them that the seats of power are not, his to give, but what he is able to offer them are roles of service, generosity, and a sharing in his ways of dying.  Jesus makes a bold and revolutionary statement concerning his personal identity.  While those who are seated at table are considered great and not those who wait on them, Jesus declares,
For the son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life for a ransom for many.”

So both readings have to do with a “servant.”  The decision to follow Jesus will, by necessity, result in a baptism of self purification and a drinking of the cup of fidelity in the face of personal suffering.  The disciples, and so we the church, are invited to a trusting fidelity as we serve at the table of human nature which tends to resist a God outside and beyond.

The “table of life” is set by God and the disciples of Jesus are those who serve the “daily bread” of truth, justice, compassion, and faith.  Not all those seated at the human table want what we serve and often will throw it back in our faces.  It is then that we drink his cup and bathe our egos in his baptism.  The suffering of the servant of and with Jesus is interior always and physical often enough.

We are so like the two sons of Zebedee.  We have the basic human desires for power, control, success, and fame.  These tendencies are not terrible and shameful, but can influence us so easily to put down his cup, avoid his baptism and look for our rightful seats at the table of life.  When we do sit down Jesus will still be the servant.

It seems that when we are eating from the board of plenty and drinking of the cup of indulgence, the tastes are flat and the hunger persists.  The life and light which the Suffering Servant offers are not found while seated.  Jesus offers a taste of real life as he invites us all to our being servants of all.   

“See of the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those who hope in his love, that he may rescue them from death and feed them in time of famine.” Ps. 33, 18-19


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