Sunday, Oct. 21, is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B, Cycle II).
It’s World Series week, and if your family is excited about baseball but not about the series, it would be a good week to watch The Perfect Game (2009). The film is based on a true story (and popular non-fiction book) about a rag-tag group of Mexican boys who competed in the Little League World Series in 1957. The story is sweet and “pro-Catholic,” even if it won’t win film awards. Cheech Marin plays Padre Esteban, the priest who keeps the boys in line and inspired. Hannah Montana fans will recognize “Rico” (Moises Arias) on the team. As always, preview it and confer with at Kids-in-Mind.com to see if it’s right for your family.
Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45 or 10:42-45
This is a tailor-made Gospel for an election year. In fact, Christ unexpectedly gives a measuring stick for a good leader in a Christian land.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and put a question to him that seems to seek a kind of “political” favor: “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Sitting at Jesus’ side means a seat in the governing of the Kingdom of God that is to come. It isn’t just a political favor — they may be thinking of it as a political position.
So Jesus tells them: “You do not know what you are asking!”
Tom tells the story of the time he was looking for a job on Capitol Hill. He was able to get the vice president’s chief of staff on the phone and asked, “I’d like to meet with you for 15 minutes.” The chief of staff's answer was the same: “You don’t know what you are asking! I don’t give senators that much time.”
Jesus’ explanation should have been that kind of wake-up call for the apostles. “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” he asked.
They answered, perhaps too hastily, “We can.”
They did get to drink that cup. It’s the cup and “baptism” foretold in today’s first reading, when Isaiah says of the Suffering Servant, “The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.” They are being asked to give their lives as an offering for sin. In fact, the martyrdom of St. James — by sword under Herod — is the only apostle’s martyrdom recorded in the New Testament.
James and John learned their spiritual lesson well. They suffered for the people. The true Christian vocation isn’t simply to lead others, but to lead them by serving.
“Those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt,” says Jesus.
For Christians, he said, “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”
So when it comes to election time, a guiding principle should be this: Vote for servants.
Vote for those who will look out for the smallest, most helpless among us — especially the unborn and the elderly. Don’t vote for those who make decisions designed only to enhance their own popularity with one group or another. Vote for those who provide the best for society — especially its foundation of religious freedom and strong marriages and families.
But this Gospel can’t be reduced to a political statement. It demands that each of us build a Christian society — not by finding someone else who will serve, but by ourselves becoming the ones who are servants of all.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.