Three times in Mark’s gospel Jesus formally tells his disciples about his coming Passion, and each time they seem entirely deaf to it. So each time Jesus counters their misunderstanding by repeating the need of a disciple to follow him in suffering. Today’s reading begins just after the third prophecy, and—true to form— the sons of Zebedee reply with a request for the best seats at the banquet of the Kingdom! Matthew spares the two disciples by putting the request in their poor mother’s mouth. Only in a second exchange with Jesus do they woodenly accept to share Jesus’ ‘cup’ and ‘baptism’. Do they really know what they are accepting, or do they just blithely agree? The indignation of the other disciples prompts Jesus to his clearest statement in words that authority in the Church is a service. His clearest statement in action is the smelly business of washing their travel-gnarled feet at his last meal with them. The lesson is difficult to assimilate, for authority corrupts even at this level. At the ordination of a priest the Church still speaks of ‘the dignity of the priesthood’ rather than the ‘service of the priesthood.’
After the initial discussion about eternal life, Jesus addresses an issue which has always faced Christians. Are riches an obstacle to faith? Jesus’ answer is that riches can be an impediment to the life of a disciple. The astonishment of the disciples arises from the belief that material prosperity is a reward from God. Jesus does not seem to share this view.
Instead, Jesus maintains that material possessions may well be an obstacle to salvation. For this reason Christians are invited ‘to leave everything’. If this is not possible they should ensure that whatever they possess and whatever power they have is used for the good of others. The real enemy is selfishness. It is selfishness that kills love.
“They are no longer two but one flesh.”
The Catholic Church has suffered heavy losses through the scandalous sexual sins of a few priests. These priests were ordained in the sacrament of Holy Orders to be a sign of God’s love for His people. Instead, the sign the world reads through the sins of these priests is that the Church is no longer trustworthy. Catholic married couples are also a sacrament, through the Sacrament of Matrimony, an outward sign of God’s love for the world. God so loved the world that He created us male and female (Gn 1:27). He poured out His love in our hearts (Rm 5:5) so that married couples would take the lead in showing broken, bruised humanity how much God loves them. Therefore, no Catholic married couple should ever criticize a priest for being a poor sign of God’s love. Instead, they should look in the mirror, for a married couple is called to be a great sign of God’s love. One marriage rich in God’s love can greatly build up the Church. Far too many Catholic marriages in the USA end in divorce. No wonder the Church is weakened! People simply read the signs and conclude that God is not with the Church because wives and husbands don’t love each other (cf Eph 5:23-25, 29-32).
Couples, your marriage is not just about the two of you. Your marriage “has been decided in heaven” (Tb 7:11). Renew your love for each other “not because of lust, but for a noble purpose” (Tb 8:7) of building up the kingdom of God.
St. Jerome asserted: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (Catechism 133). If we are ignorant of Christ, we will not discern the will of the Lord (Eph 5:17). This means we will not make “the most of the present opportunity” (Eph 5:16). But through knowledge of the Scriptures and through good discernment of God’s will, we are saved from a futile (see 1 Pt 1:18), vain (see Eccl 1:2) existence.
• “Keep this book of the law on your lips. Recite it by day and by night, that you may observe carefully all that is written in it; then you will successfully attain your goal” (Jos 1:8).
• Let the law of the Lord be your joy, and study God’s law day and night (see Ps 1:2).
• Devour God’s words and make them the joy and happiness of your heart (Jer 15:16).
• Abide in God’s Word (Jn 8:31).
• Devote yourself to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42).
• Each day study the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).
• Preach God’s Word and “stay with this task whether convenient or inconvenient — correcting, reproving, appealing — constantly teaching and never losing patience” (2 Tm 4:2).
• How precious is God’s Word! Love, live, and proclaim His Word.