Fr Thomas’ Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Called to Serve

As I was processing to the altar with six other deacons for my priestly ordination, the choir sang with all gusto, a song familiar to the aspirants of priesthood in Syro Malabar Church.  I remember how elated I was to hear them singing praises to the exalted position of priesthood.  I don’t deny that a tinge of that had motivated me to seek priesthood as my vocation in the first place, though there were plenty of reminders of sacrifices around me along the way.

In Mark’s Gospel Jesus reminds his disciples three times of his impending suffering and death as ransom for many.  He also taught that discipleship to him involves dedication to service even at the pain of suffering and death.  Yet James and John were preoccupied with thoughts of what kind of exaltation they could expect in the Kingdom of God.

The question about the high position James and John raised with Jesus was reflecting the power struggle in the Christian Community of Mark.  In spite of Jesus emphatically teaching that the Christian life should be service-orientated, the human weakness had the better of many leaders in the early Church.  The struggle between the craving for high position and service mindedness has been an ongoing problem in the Church.  Therefore, great and saintly souls had to remind the Church to reclaim its character of service orientated discipleship.  St Theresa of Avila, whose feast was on last Friday, is remembered for reforming the Carmelites to be service-orientated than comfort seeking.  Through radical poverty, St Francis of Assisi promoted service as the character of Christian discipleship.  Holy Father Pope Francis (in 2013) recalling a favourite imagery of a pastor, urged priests to be ‘“shepherds with the ‘smell of the sheep’”, grounded in the situation of their flock.’  This reflection on Mark 10:35-45 is primarily relevant for the pastors and leaders of the Church; but also is applicable to all disciples of Christ.  The conclusion is same as last week’s.  Is Jesus your priority and service your lifestyle?