23 Oct 2012
Homily for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time – October 21, 2012
By Deacon Scott Carroll, Seminarian at St. Meinrad
Holy Family Catholic Church, New Albany, Indiana
Sunday is a very special day at seminary . . . it’s dessert day! All day, from the sweet rolls at breakfast to the ice cream with the evening meal . . . desserts. Oh sure, there are other things that are very important about a Sunday in a seminary, but if you saw us at our noon meal, you might wonder. This is where we have our more formal, or main meal of the day. As we come into the hall after mass, we walk right past the dessert table, and we immediately start to size up the options and make our plans. Towards the end of the meal, our minds turn to that dessert table, and we begin to wonder if it is time yet. Kind of a funny thing, in that no one wants to go up first, but we don’t want to lose out on what we want. Sooner of later, someone goes up and grabs their dessert . . . and then it is on!
Who doesn’t want to be first? It isn’t just us seminarians. Every kid wants to be first . . . to recess, to lunch, to go into the game or to be the starter, to go home after school is out, to be the first to get that toy or game or download. Every adult wants to be first . . . if only to be done with work and to go home, or to get that toy, or the latest thing like an iphone.
And honestly, what is wrong with that? First means that you get what you want, or you got what you need, or you’ve done all that you can do. Last means that you might go without, or get the least, or be forgotten and possibly, it might mean that you get in trouble. Sure, sometimes I don’t mind being last, especially when I really don’t want what they are giving out, or when people think I am being nice, or feel sorry for me, or that I am suffering for them. Here, the end of the line is not really last . . . its just being first in line to get credit or get out of something! Being first is being at our best, so why don’t we want this, and why wouldn’t God want this for us?
Here in our Gospel we find two apostles trying to be first! James and John both went to Christ, and they asked to sit at his right and left . . . and they seemed to have done this in secret. I guess they wanted to be sure about heaven, and their place in it. Maybe they were afraid of never seeing the face of God? It is any wonder that the others were mad, but why? Was it because this wasn’t fair, or were they afraid of being left out? Maybe they were mad because they didn’t think of this first.
How can wanting to be with Christ be wrong? Don’t we want the things we need? This is one of our best instincts. This is how we survive in the world . . . but, according to Christ, is it not how we are saved. The Gospel reminds us that those who wish to be first and great will be last as servant and slave, but sometimes we can’t help but be frustrated with this. We can’t all be first, of course, but we all can’t be last either. So, what should we want?
Jesus, as always, is ahead of us here in the Gospel. He says that we should drink this cup, be baptized this way and to share in this life, but they didn’t really know what that meant yet . . . and neither would we. But, soon after he says “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.
This might makes us think of that first reading today, the one about a servant. This was a person who was infirmed, afflicted, suffering . . . first in nothing, but bearing guilt, giving life to others, saving others. Who was this servant? No one knew then, but now we know that Christ is that Suffering Servant. Through the Gospels, we see that he lived a life of not always seeking to be last or wanting to suffer, but willing to do this for others. He was giving hope to everyone, by accepting the burden of everyone. This was his cup, and this was his baptism, and someday James and John would be that suffering servant too!
Sometimes, that is what it takes for us to be a Christian. We suffering, but not as something we seek out or to test our self. We serve, but not to control or get credit. Instead, the suffering servant accepts suffering and being a servant to bring others life and hope . . . to bring others closer to God. In some ways, it is like holding a door open for someone else. Sometimes we should, and sometimes we should allow others to do this for us, but we should always be willing to hold the door. In many ways, the first through the door to heaven is the one willing to hold it open.
This is a new way of being first. This is a new way of being a believer, by following what Christ teaches us in the Gospel. If we wish to be truly great, then we need to be great as the servant to everyone. If we wish to truly be first, then first we need to be the slave to all. No businessman, politician, athlete, or anybody gets to heaven by being first in what they do, but rather they get there by lifting others up as well. Servants aren’t last when they help everyone else to be first . . . and they do sit at the side of the Lord. In short, it’s okay to want to be the first and to sit at the side of Christ, but may we all remember to pray and try and to take everyone else along with us!