By NORMA P. DOLLAGA
Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Mk 10:35-45 or 10:42-45
We love to teach Sunday School children songs from Kids Praise like “If you want to be great in God’s Kingdom, learn to be the servant of all……” We also hear songs like, “I’m gonna zoom, zoom around the room, room, room… Praise the Lord…when the gates are open wid e, I ‘m gonna sit by Jesus side…Praise the Lord.”
The melodies of both songs are inviting as it creates a jolly mood especially when children sing it with action or dance. But listening closely to the second song reminds us of conflicting understanding of kin-dom values.
Why grapple who will sit at the right and left side of Jesus? Is it not inviting the brothers and sisters of faith to be in an unfriendly competition? Is this not a stimulant to a theology that promotes and advocates “padrino” system, thus, reducing the church into a ground for power-competition that deviates itself from its calling as church of the people or of the poor?
It is like having a photo-op with Jesus, and one feels good sitting beside him. But would you take a photo-op with him when the state ruled that he was a criminal? One who belongs to the bandits? One who radically challenged the unjust system? One who exposed the rotten system with his parables? One who was non-compliant with the “standard of this world?” Would you sit with him and include him among your friends and allies when he was “red-tagged” by the unscrupulous state? Oh well, Jesus was confidently assured that the masses whom he loved to serve were with him. He got a good platform in life. The hypocrites and the humbugs red-tagged Jesus out of their resentment. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27)
The disciples, so intimate with Jesus, asked Jesus in the middle of their work, “who is going to sit at the right side of him?” Jesus openly has to be genuinely honest to his disciples. He heard them in their squabbles on the “left and right positions”. This led to intrigue among the disciples. As it turned out, it was not only the two disciples who asked the question who were interested but the rest of them. They got angry at the two brothers because all of them had common interest. The common interest was rooted in the desire for individual prestige and lofty position.
It was Jesus who reminded them what it takes to be great. Service to God and to the people is the primary desire that every follower of Christ must bear in mind and heart. “Can you drink the cup of suffering that I am about to drink?” This was as if Jesus was telling them, “Are you willing to pay the price for greatness? ”
If along the way, we become vulnerable to our own weaknesses, to our desire for a lofty position, let the words of Jesus remind us. “If you want to be great, you should be the servant of all”.
Jesus overturned our concept of power. With him, power is seen in terms of service and not control. He was also very sharp when he said that those who lord over are the tyrants themselves. Service to God and to the people is the primary desire every follower of Christ must bear in mind and heart.
Greatness is about being servant of all. Many times, the disciples were still confused about the meaning of following Jesus and being part in the propagation of the message of the Gospel of Truth and abundant life. They were trapped with the concept they grew up with.
Greatness is not about power over or a grand display of authority where every head bows and every knee bends in reverence.But the one who was supposed to be “kingly” showed his divinity by incarnating and living among the poor. Many times, leadership has been a source of exploitation and abuse because structures and principalities developed a concept very much in contrary to the values of human community – of equality, mutuality, and partnership.
In our story, Jesus was simple but deep. He posed a great challenge: Can you drink the cup that I will be drinking? Jesus could be asking them: Will you be willing to offer your life for the sake of others? Are you willing to give yourself, to live and to die for others who are longing to behold an abundant life? Are you willing to live and die for the principles that contradict the dominant values of the Roman Empire? Will you be able to engage the Roman Empire as it promotes Pax Romana – peace under military might and colonial rule? Will you be willing to speak the truth about redeeming and emancipating love, and carry forward the agenda of justice even under threats and attacks of the powers-that-be? Will you be willing to be punished and branded as enemy of the state, and suffer the capital punishment – like being nailed at the cross? Will you be willing to give up everything for the sake of ministry?
This was his life. And the price of this deep commitment is the cup of suffering.
I am reminded of the life of Fr. “Pops” Tentorio, PIME, an Italian priest who spent 33 years of his life serving the indigenous people and poor peasants in Mindanao. For being good and true to the call of priesthood and servanthood, he was killed by elements believed to be members of a para-military group. Tomorrow ( Oct. 17) is his 10th death anniversary. He humbly served the people. He dined with them, starved with them, dreamt with them and became one amongst them.
A man who
lived out the calling of priesthood for the people;
obedient in following the commandment of loving the neighbor;
purified and molded by the teachings of the lowly;
became poor by choice because he opted to be one amongst those whom
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).