Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, October 18, 2009:
Psalm 91:9-16You have made the LORD your refuge, and the Most High your habitation. (Ps. 91:9)
In this Gospel, again we see the disciples jockeying for position and favor. I like these humanizing details about the disciples: the fact that it takes them awhile to understand things, the fact that they routinely fail (after trying again and again, and often failing miserably), the fact that they want to be the favorite ones.
I also like that Jesus never wavers. He knows that he could be preaching a more popular Gospel, but he sticks to his message. Jesus must know that many humans will not see his Good News as very good at all: you mean, we should stay married? You mean, we have to sell all that we own and give it to the poor--and then we'll be ready to follow you? You're really serious about that getting rid of possessions clause? Hmm. Many of us will say, "Never mind." We'll pray the Prayer of Jabez, and hope that translates into big cash.
Again and again, Jesus tells us that the last will be first. Again and again, Jesus stresses that we're here to serve. Following Jesus isn't about self-empowerment. We don't follow Jesus because we hope to become rich (other religions, like Capitalism, might make that promise, but not Christianity). Christianity is NOT just a big self-improvement program.
Sure, we might become better people, but not by the route that the larger world offers us. Christ tells us that we fulfill our destiny by serving others. It goes against most everything else we've ever learned. We're not supposed to look out for number one? We're not supposed to be most concerned about ourselves and our families? No, we're not.
We've had an opportunity over the past several decades to watch our leaders--religious, political, all types of leaders--dance around these passages, to try to let us wiggle-worm away from the life that Jesus calls us to. We don't have to give away everything, as long as we tithe. As long as our possessions don't own us. As long as we keep in mind what's really important.
But what if Jesus was speaking literally? What if he really meant what he said? Go back and read the Gospels (go ahead--they're short--it won't take you long). Jesus is remarkably consistent. If you want to boil down his message into short bites, here's one: serve others. Don't think about your needs and wants--focus on others (and not just people that you like anyway).
For some of us, if we really start to live a Gospel life, it will take practice and undoing of a past life of bad habits. Start small. Do good deeds for people that you like. Practice radical patience. Be on the lookout for all the people who need your smile or a kind word. Let other people take the credit for your ideas. Give away more money. Add some more prayer time to your day to focus on the needs of others. Ask God to show you how to have a servant's heart.
Maybe God will call you to heal others, like St. Luke, whose feast day we celebrate this week. Maybe we will have a different apostle as a role model. There are many ways to serve, and a vast world in need of our service.