29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

World Mission Sunday

First reading: Is. 53:10–11

The LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity. If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.

Second reading: Heb. 4:14–16

Brothers and sisters: Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Gospel: Mk. 10:35–45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

In other words Fr. Randy Flores, SVD (Sacred Heart Parish Shrine, Quezon City)

It’s World Mission Sunday. Mission is first and foremost the mission of God (missio Dei). It is also the mission of Jesus. But how are we to understand this? All we have to do is read once again today’s two readings. Note that Jesus defines his mission this way, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). “For many” alludes to the First Reading, from Isaiah 53, v. 11 in particular. A similar allusion is found in the Eucharistic words of Jesus, “This is the blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many”(Mk. 14:24). Isaiah 53 is a famous chapter about the Suffering Servant. By understanding then the mission of this anonymous Servant of Yahweh (Ebed-YHWH) in Isaiah, we can understand the mission of Jesus as well.

In 1892, the German Biblical scholar Bernhard Duhm, in his commentary, identified four passages in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah as the Four Songs of the Suffering Servant of the Lord. Isaiah 52:13–53:12 to which our First Reading belongs is the Fourth Song. The passage begins and ends with a mention of the Servant’s sufferings, “many were appalled at him, so deformed was his face beyond human recognition” (52:14), “he bore the sin of many” (53:11). In the middle, we have a description of the Servant’s sufferings as well, “he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity, he bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (53:5–6). What do these passages tell us concerning how Jesus understood his mission?

First, mission is God’s mission (“Here is my [YHWH’s] servant” cf. 42:1). Second, mission entails pain, suffering, rejection, being misunderstood, and even death. Third, suffering is for others’ healing, forgiveness, or redemption (a sin-offering, a vicarious suffering). Fourth, suffering is “for many”—it has a global effect. Fifth, it is not clear in this passage of Isaiah if the Servant who “poured out himself to death” was to be resurrected by God. What is clear is that the Servant’s mission would be continued and carried to fruition through his disciples (see 53:10).

Through the Suffering Servant, Jesus understood his mission very well. So, when his two disciples approached their Master to request for a position of power and prestige, Jesus replied, “Can you drink the cup that I must drink?” James and John did not understand the mission of Jesus, unfortunately. But we do, fortunately.

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