To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings by Tom and April Hoopes.
BY Tom and April Hoopes
18, 2009, is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time and World Mission Sunday.
World Mission Sunday
In his remarks for Mission Sunday
2009, Pope Benedict XVI said a few startling things.
he made it clear that no generation is off the hook regarding the need to
evangelize. Certainly not ours: “In truth, the whole of humanity has the
radical vocation to return to its source, to return to God, since in him alone
can it find accomplishment through the restoration of all things in Christ.”
Christianity is not a religion meant for a few — it’s God’s answer meant for
all his people, and it’s our job to spread it.
Spread it how? The Holy Father used
an image for evangelization that is very timely, with H1N1 (swine flu) in the
air: “The Church’s mission is to ‘infect’ all peoples with hope.” We can only
“infect” people with what we already have, of course. So the first job of
Mission Sunday is to “catch” hope. Families need to find transmitters of this
hope in order to catch it and spread it to the world.
The Register is one — spreading hope
is its mission. Good Catholic schools like Benedictine College, where I work
now, are others. This column exists to point out more.
Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalms 33:4-5,
18-20, 22; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45 or 10:42-45
Today’s readings tell the story of
the value of suffering. The first reading from Isaiah tells of the one whom the
“Lord was pleased” to “crush in his infirmity.” We learn that “through his
suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”
It seems like a terrible way to
treat a VIP, but this is precisely how God does treat those who are his most
important representatives. James and John found this out directly. In today’s
Gospel, they approach Jesus and ask to be given places of honor, at his left
and right, when he is “in his glory.”
In other words, when the victory has
been won and Christ comes back to claim his prize, they want to be stars of the
show. They don’t talk about earning their way there. They don’t talk about
justifying their presence there with a record of winning souls. They just want
to make sure they get good places.
Imagine if Christ said, “Sure.”
Imagine if God preassigned places of honor based on arbitrary reasons, at the
request of “important” people. His nature would be changed. He would be a kind
of supreme politician. He would be a more powerful version of the kind of
rulers human beings tend to be, when left to our own devices.
Or imagine if Christ said, “That’s
stupid. No way.” Imagine he simply refused to deal with humanity’s silly
questions because they were arrogant and missed the point. Where would that
leave us? What questions would he answer? He
would have to refuse to deal with humanity, period.
In fact, what we have is a God who
isn’t a ruler from afar, but one who came to live with us, and suffer with us,
precisely to be able to address our real human needs — even in the confused
terms we present them.
As the Letter to the Hebrews puts it
in the second reading, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to
sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every
The apostles eventually understood
enough to be sure that every Gospel records their misunderstanding about power
— and Christ’s gentle but firm correction.
And it’s interesting to note that
the Acts of the Apostles tell “the rest of the story.” James and John
eventually got their wish. Acts 12:2 tells us how Herod had James beheaded.
He did indeed drink the cup of
Christ — to the dregs.
and April Hoopes were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College
in Atchison, Kansas, and a former Register