Selfless service to one another Print E-mail
Sunday scripture column

Jem Sullivan

Sunday, Oct. 21
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 53:10-11
Psalm 33:4-5, 18-20, 22
Heb 4:14-16
Mk 10:35-45

If no spoken or written words of St. Teresa of Kolkata were ever recorded, the holy woman would still be a canonized saint of the church. For her saintly actions spoke louder than any of her words.

She embraced the outcast leper; sheltered the homeless, dying man abandoned on the street; loved the orphaned, hungry, destitute child; and infused hope in marginalized, despairing hearts.

In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa said these powerful words, “I am grateful, and I am very happy to receive it in the name of the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the leprous, for all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for, or thrown away (by) society.”

In St. Mark’s Gospel, two disciples, James and John, request Jesus for positions of high honor close to him, at his right and left hand.

Like James and John, we all welcome a special pat on the back, enjoy places of honor, and seek after status symbols. We envy those in authority and exert personal agendas whenever we can.

Jesus’ response points to the meaning of Christian discipleship even as he has compassion on our human weakness. Jesus calls us to something far more satisfying.

Jesus challenges his disciples, and us, to live in the joy and freedom of this Christian paradox — greatness is to be found in selfless service “whoever wishes to be great among you,” says Jesus, “will be your servant.”

Jem Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.