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Suffering and Serving

Today’s first reading comes from the fourth of four passages in the Book of Isaiah that speak of a “suffering servant.” People see suffering as something terrible and to be avoided. However, in the first reading, regarding the suffering servant, we hear how “The LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.

It is the Lord’s will for the suffering servant to suffer. Why? We find the answer in Jesus’ fulfillment of this passage. Jesus suffered on the Cross. He was “crushed” in his suffering but there was a purpose to his suffering. His suffering, his sacrifice, becomes “an offering for sin” so that we may have “a long life.” It is through his suffering that Jesus “shall justify many.

Jesus died for us. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Seeing Jesus’ love, we cry out, “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.” We can trust Jesus.

Why? Because, as we read in Hebrews today, “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.

Jesus knows what it is like to suffer. Three times He told his disciples about his coming Passion but they didn’t understand. Jesus prayed in the garden, “Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Jesus did not want to suffer but He accepted it as the Father’s Will. Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “thy will be done.” Do we mean it? Do we surrender ourselves to God’s Will? This is not easy. We need grace to be able to do this. So, in today’s opening prayer at Mass, we pray “grant that we may always conform our will to yours.”

Today’s Gospel comes right after Jesus told his disciples for the third time about his coming passion. Did they get it? Apparently not because James and John come to Jesus looking for places of honor.

Jesus responds to them, “You do not know what you are asking.” They do not yet fully understand what is required to be Jesus’ disciple. Jesus continues, “Can you drink the cup that I drink?” The cup of which Jesus speaks is his blood that is poured for us on the Cross. It is the suffering that He endures in his Passion for us. Are you willing to suffer in the name of Jesus?

What about the other ten? What did they think of the request James and John make to Jesus? “They become indignant at James and John.” Is this because they know better or because they want the places of honor for themselves? How do you feel when you see someone get something you don’t have but want? Do you seek a place of honor?

Jesus goes on to speak of leadership. He speaks of Gentile rulers who take their authority over the people and “lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.” Jesus is our king but He does not use his authority against us for his own benefit. Jesus takes a different approach to leadership, one of service, as He says, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Jesus literally gives his life as a ransom for our sins. We can place our trust in him.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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