Suffering, service and mission

As the liturgical year draws to a close, our readings bring us ever closer to the events of holy week and the suffering and death of Jesus. Immediately after today’s Gospel from Mark 10:35-45 we find Jesus and the disciples travelling through Jericho in the final stage of their pilgrimage to Jerusalem (next Sunday) and Mark 11 recounts the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the day that we call Palm Sunday. Just before the Gospel passage today, Jesus gives the prophecy about his passion and death for the third time. We are told that as they journey to Jerusalem, the disciples are ‘amazed and afraid.’

So the fact that James and John come to Jesus after this third prediction, and put the same question to Jesus ‘give us whatever we ask of you’ that ‘King’ Herod had put to the daughter of Herodias before the execution of John the Baptiser – makes us also amazed. Jesus is turning the whole world upside-down, and even his closest followers who have journeyed with him for several years, can still get al this so wrong.

Into this Jesus again declares the truth of what his cup of suffering will involve, and that the places to the left and right of him when he comes into his glory will not be given to James and John, but to the thieves and brigands who share his same shameful death, alone on the cross. The reading from Hebrews today reminds us that Jesus has experienced everything that we experience – including not just physical suffering (which is why Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ got this so wrong) but also emotional and moral suffering. It is this emotional and spiritual form of suffering that Jesus and the gospel writers emphasise much more than the physical. It is this suffering that we have so much power to relieve and ease – particularly today as we celebrate with the universal church Mission Sunday.

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Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (4’55”)
Sunday 29B 

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