October 21, 2018 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Deacon Steve Whiteman

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 IS 53:10-11

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Reading 2 HEB 4:14-16

Alleluia MK 10:45

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Son of Man came to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Gospel MK 10:35-45

  Don’t be a Grinch                                                

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 146

Our Gospel today gives us some interesting examples of human behaviors. The brothers, James and John, ask a very naïve question at a very awkward time. In the Gospel of Mark, just before our reading today, Jesus had prophesied for the 3rd time that he will be handed “over the Gentiles who will mock Him, scourge Him, put Him to death, but after 3 days He will rise.”

Just as this heart breaking news is sinking in, James and John came to Jesus with a childish demand:  "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." 

Of course their request for special treatment in heaven is inappropriate and Jesus gently brings them back to reality when He says: "You do not know what you are asking.”

The rest of the group can’t seem to rise above the situation and we are told: “they became indignant at James and John.”In other words, the rest of the group was resentful and annoyed by the requests from James and John.

It’s tempting to be judgmental of the Apostle’s behavior 2000 years later but I know when I’ve gone down that path. I’ve found examples in my own life that sound very familiar.

When thinking about human behavior I’m often reminded of the stories written by Dr. Seuss. One story that comes to mind is:How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

If you remember, the story starts off with the Grinch living in seclusion on a cliff overlooking the cheerful town of Whoville. He’s a crabby character who could be described as indignant. He is resentful and annoyed by the Who’s down in Whoville. Their joyful preparations for Christmas become a grudge for the Grinch to fixate on.

If we look a little closer at the Grinch we might find someone who is lonely and insecure. These feelings of insecurity may have led him to the sin of pride and made him jealous and judgmental of his neighbors. Unfortunately the Grinch is not able to leave things alone and takes matters into his own hands. Since he can’t find joy in his own life, he seems determined to try stealing the joy from his neighbors. 

Unlike our Gospel story, Jesus is not there to step in and set him straight. The Grinch lashes out at the peaceful town in a fit of jealous rage. As you probably know, his childish attempts to provoke the Who’s are unsuccessful. Despite the stolen toys and missing roast beast, the Who’s still celebrated a joyful Christmas morning and the Grinch learned a valuable lesson.

So how does the Grinch relate to the Gospel story and our own lives?

The requests that James and John made of Jesus were certainly naïve but I think the more interesting behavior came from the other 10 Apostles. We are told they “became indignant at James and John.” If we think about the possible reasons the 10 Apostles were annoyed and resentful, it may help us better understand their behavior and avoid it ourselves.

If we use our Grinch example, the 10 Apostles may have been jealous of James and John. They may have thinking about making the same request to Jesus but James and John “beat them to the punch”.

The 10 Apostles may have also been feeling insecure and anxious about their future. Being judgmental of James and John made them feel better about their situation.

We could probably come up with other reasons for their indignant behavior but the important point to take home today is the response from Jesus.

After witnessing the Apostle’s selfish behavior Jesus took them aside and reminded them again about the importance of servant leadership: “whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”

We know that one of the best ways to avoid selfish behavior is by focusing our attention and energy outside ourselves in service to others. Since we live in a society that encourages us to do just the opposite, this is a challenge we need to focus on everyday.

All of us have examples in our lives of helping others. The challenge we are often faced with may be an indignant or ungrateful response from the people we are trying to help. If we aren’t prepared for this, our natural reaction may turn us into our own version of the Grinch but we know that isn’t helpful. The devil likes to lead us down this judgmental path so it’s important to be prepared for it and recognize when it’s happening. A person’s ungrateful response to charity may be a symptom of neglect, abuse or addiction.

There will always be people around us that remind us of the Grinch and when life is a struggle there will always be temptations to act like a Grinch ourselves. It’s helpful to understand the root causes behind this behavior and one of our best defenses is to avoid isolation and turning inward. Instead of negativity and focusing on ourselves, we know we will find peace and joy by direction our attention and energy in helping and praying for others.

As we look for opportunities to help others this week, let us pray for the strength and patience we need to see Jesus in all those that we meet.

Click here to LISTEN to homily