We Are Meant to Be Like the Suffering Servant

User’s Guide to Sunday, Oct. 17

‘Ecce Homo’ by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
‘Ecce Homo’ by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (photo: Public domain)

Sunday, Oct. 17, is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Mass Readings: Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 33: 4-5, 18-19, 20, 22; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45 or 10:42-45.

The readings for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Year B remind us that while we do not always live in Holy Week, the events of that sacred time should be present to us the whole year through. The first reading (Isaiah 53:10-11) is a selection from the text of Isaiah known as the “Suffering Servant Songs”; and in the Gospel (Mark 10:35-45 or 10:42-45), Jesus speaks to James and John about drinking the cup which he is to drink and tells his apostles that he came to “serve and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Yet what does Jesus’ passion and death mean for us as we near the end of Ordinary Time? It means everything.

Jesus, throughout his whole life, never lost sight of his purpose for becoming incarnate. He knew of it even during the hidden years between his infancy and the finding of the Child Jesus in the temple and the years until his first miracle at Cana. We do not know the details of the life of the Holy Family, the day-to-day moments in their domestic church. We do know that Jesus knew who he was and what he was meant to live for. He was waiting for the right moment to be revealed to the world. And while he was waiting for that time, he truly lived — loving and serving his family and his community according to his state in life. 

In this year of St. Joseph, we can also think about Joseph, the man who raised Jesus. He lived each day as a servant to his family, following God’s promptings. What mattered for his life was how he was a servant to others, caring for the Blessed Mother and Jesus; but it also mattered that he needed the Son of Man to come as a ransom for humanity. 

Further, the Blessed Mother was also a servant to others: to God in her fiat at the Annunciation, to Elizabeth in her pregnancy, but, also, in pouring herself out every day in loving care of her family. Jesus came to save us, but, in doing so, he also came to show us how to be fully human. The second reading from Hebrews (4:14-16) tells us that we “do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). 

He knows what it is like to walk this earth, to encounter temptations, to love fallen people, to experience bodily limitations, to suffer, to lose loved ones — and to ultimately die. He became a man to show us that this life and its trials have meaning. We know the meaning when we face them for the sake of being united with him. “Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days,” says Isaiah in the first reading (Isaiah 53:11). His is satisfied with the outcome of his afflictions, that he has made a way for those who love him to be saved. Through his suffering he has justified us. He came to give his life as an offering for us so that we could join him in heaven.

As we go through our days, whether it be in a season of change or a season of repetitive sameness, we too must live with our ultimate end in mind. 

The Responsorial Psalm (33: 4-5, 18-19, 20, 22) leads us to trust in the Lord, that he will show us mercy. Our souls wait for the Lord and hope in his promises. With our eyes on that end, we must live in the present moment, seeking now to imitate our savior through being the servant of those in our lives, anticipating needs with love, doing what is kind, and showing the mercy that we hope for from God.