No Crown Without the Cross
There are numerous prophecies in the Old Testament about Christ’s sufferings – that He would be the ‘Suffering Servant’ of which today’s First Reading from Isaiah is an example (53:10-11). In today’s Gospel Our Lord makes it clear that He is that Suffering Servant. Just before this Gospel passage, He had predicted His suffering and death in Jerusalem (Mark 10: 32-34). As the great Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen said many times, “Every other person who ever came into this world came into it to live. He came into it to die.” He came into this world so He could bear our guilt, and through His suffering and death He would pay the price of our sins.
But the brothers James and John wanted to heap honours on themselves. “Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.” How they had missed the point of Our Lord’s teaching on true greatness! Only two weeks ago we heard Him say that to be great in the Kingdom of Heaven you must become like a little child. So James and John understood greatness in a very worldly way. But Our Lord responds that they do not know what they are asking and asks if they can drink from the cup from which He must drink and be baptised with the baptism with which He must be baptised (that is His Passion and Death). But let’s not be too quick to criticise them as we might well have done the same!
Then Our Lord makes it clear. The greatest in the Kingdom is the servant of all. In other words, we have to give our lives in service of others. And we’re all called to do this. How easy it is to spend much time worrying about our position in life, our bank balance or the size of our house or whether we have a nice car. But in the end none of these things matter to Our Lord. Instead He will ask us if we gave a drink of water to the thirsty or helped feed the hungry? Did we instruct the ignorant or pray for the dead? Did we help the poor? Then He will tell us that all these things that we did to the least of His brethren, we did it to Him.
The message of this Gospel is that there is no crown without the cross. We have to die to ourselves in the service of others to attain the crown of glory in Heaven.
Fr Paul Gillham IC