Reflections on Sunday Readings    

Kingdom of God--Not to be Asked for, but to be Earned

By Fr. Stephen, O.M.I.

My dear parishioners, the Gospel for 29th Sunday in Ordinary time narrates the request made by James and John to Jesus: "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." Then Jesus asks, "What do you wish me to do for you?" They want to sit on His right and left sides when He is in glory.

It sounds ridiculous to us, because Jesus Himself said that they did not know what they were asking. Even after confidently answering "yes" to His question, "Can you drink the cup that I drink, "Jesus didn't promise to grant their request, but gently reminded them what they are supposed to do to earn that spot.

Witnessing His miraculous powers, many Israelites expected Jesus to be a militant and a political messiah. Having seen people rallying round Him in great numbers, James and John must have also thought that surely their master was going to be someone powerful in the country—so it would be good to secure some places of importance for themselves in advance. Though later they understood Jesus as the "suffering servant", at the beginning they followed Jesus with some ulterior motives such as power, possessions and pride.

My dear friends, don't most of our daily prayers also contain the same request of James and John: "Lord, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you?" Yet we do not know what we are asking. Are we also treating Jesus like a "genie" who would grant our wishes or a "pain killer" that would give us a temporal relief? When things do not go the way we want, aren't we tempted to lose faith in God?

Yes, indeed, Jesus gently turned downed the request of James and John. He made them understand that the kingdom of Heaven is not something to request. Rather, they must work hard for and earn Heaven. Jesus also showed them, by word and deed, how to earn it—by becoming humble servants to those in need.

My dear brothers and sisters, we know that later James and John clearly understood Jesus and His kingdom. They became closer to Jesus
and with Saint Peter, both of them were present in all major events of His life. Saint James finally earned his well-deserved spot with Jesus: he was the first to die and go to Heaven, and also the first to be martyred after Jesus. This is what we should learn from them today.

According to Jesus, Heaven is a treasure hidden in the world. He said this in the parable of the treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 13:44). In today's Gospel, Jesus gently invites James and John-and us
to work hard to find the kingdom of Heaven. Since it is worth more than anything, He also invites us to sacrifice all that we have to own it. Jesus, whom we meet every day at Holy Mass, teaches us by word and example how to make these sacrifices to own this treasure. Therefore, let our daily prayers NOT be, "Lord, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you"; but RATHER, "Lord, we want you to do for us whatever helps us to humbly serve you."

Blessings to you,
Fr. Stephen, OMI

Last Update: October 15, 2021