29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - What's in it for me?

It is very difficult for us to be totally selfless.   We are innately self centered. Subconsciously, at least, we are always asking: "What's in it for me?" Religious decisions are no exception.   If we deliberately choose to become disciples of Jesus, we, too, like James and John, might ask: "What reward do you promise? Will we become powerful and famous?  Can we sit at your right hand?"

Jesus doesn't play those kinds of games.   He makes it very clear that, if we choose to follow Him, we are asking to become suffering servants.  We will be expected to make ourselves vulnerable and expendable. The only greatness we can expect is to be asked to make great sacrifices, to become heroes through suffering and humiliation.

Why, then, do millions of people continue to deliberately choose to become disciples of Jesus?  Obviously, discipleship does not simply come from belonging to an elaborate, hierarchical model of "church." Discipleship, then, must offer its own rewards - not in terms of power and possessions, but in terms of great inner peace, of fulfillment, and of the great satisfaction that comes from loving and serving unselfishly.

We are all challenged by the demands of the Gospel in the real world of our daily lives.   We are all  expected to be just, to be forgiving, to be servants, to be poor in spirit, to be merciful  And with each decision we might well ask: "What's in it for me?" 

The answer can only come from the depths of our love for Jesus, and from the example of His own life, death and resurrection.  It is coming around full-circle in our understanding of His words: "whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all."
The mission of Jesus is an invitation to journey with him on a very rough and dangerous road.  In today's Gospel, we travel along with Jesus as he is finishing his own journey to Jerusalem. Along the way, he has been teaching his disciples about discipleship.  He is close to his entrance into Jerusalem and the disciples still don't get the point.  They miss the call to service that discipleship entails.  Jesus responds that he has not come to give them the ranking they request. The only thing he can offer is the role of service to others and the consequent suffering such service will involve.  The follower of Christ will have to renounce power and drink of the cup of Christ, to be a servant and accept the suffering it entails. 

Jesus' way is so contrary to the world's.  More than anything else, His suffering comes as a result of his choosing to identify with the disenfranchised and the outcast.  He chose to reach out to sinners and welcome into his company those who were unacceptable to the religious and social elite. His life was a service to those who were usually ignored or passed over.   Jesus' witness of constant love for all, no matter who they were or where they came from, was the instigation for his death.  From the very beginning, He was on a collision course with the reigning religious and political powers.  And today He tells His disciples that if they follow him and act and think as he did, then they (and we) will be on that same collision course. 

We are totally in God's hands, especially in the suffering that is the consequence of following Christ.  In the end, with Jesus, we can trust that God will bring life out of suffering.  And we can leave the seating arrangements at the table in the reign of God to God.