Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 53:10-11
Hebrews 4:14-16
Mark 10:35-45 or 10:42-45

The children in my family very quickly learned about economic priorities. We grew up with the question, “How much will it cost?” As we matured, we discovered that the answer was not simply economic. Because my father was a police officer, we knew the price of patrolling downtown streets at night. We also knew what it meant for my mother to work, and we quickly learned the cost of “being in charge” of younger siblings.

Nonetheless, we still thought that proximity to power was power. In our young lives, our parents had the power and that seemed like a good thing to us. We always wanted to know, “Who do you love best” so we knew the extent of our own power.

This, I suspect, is the root of the question Jesus’ followers were asking: “How much power will I have in the kingdom?” But, the message had been clear all along. “The last shall be first,” and the cost of discipleship would be steep.

This is Jesus’ third prediction of his passion and death in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus knew his role in bringing about the kingdom. He knew that he would die for the world and atone for the sins of all of us. His sacrifice would be unlike that of any of his followers. Many of those followers however, would drink the cup of martyrdom and be baptized in suffering.  They had come a long way since they first listened to Jesus’ words. At the beginning, they thought Jesus would be a nationalist Messiah. Jesus tells them that would not be so and that their own future would be one of service.

It is unlikely that anyone understands the cost of discipleship today better than our missionaries. Today, the Church celebrates World Mission Sunday. Today, in communities rich and poor throughout the world, we reach out with prayers and alms to people in need all over the world. We remember that whenever service becomes restricted to the boundaries of a parish or a national Church, it runs the risk of being impaired. Families pray for the Church’s missionary work and offer a portion of their material goods to help others live in the faith that sustains them. Elderly men and women offer the tedium and frustration of life, in union with the suffering of Christ, for the redemption of the world. We are all called to be missionaries. In the missionary activity of the Church, we see a visible sign of our discipleship.

In the unity of the community at worship, the oneness of all humankind is proclaimed. This is the first step in our reaching out to evangelize the world. The next step is more difficult. It consists in setting aside our own ambitions, our personal goals and aspirations so that we can most powerfully exist as a Church and reach out to others.

Most of us fully embrace the notion that we are called to “do what Jesus would do.” It takes a lifetime to grasp how far we might be called to travel on the “Jesus road.” It takes a lifetime to understand that sometimes the price of service is suffering.

Today’s readings are a reminder of the cost of discipleship but they also help us to recall the rewards. In our discipleship, we will find mercy and grace.