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 countryso 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 itby 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
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 usto
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
Fr. Stephen, OMI