Sunday, Oct. 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.
First, 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 way.”
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.
Tom and April Hoopes were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College
in Atchison, Kansas, and a former Register editor.