Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 17, 2021
I’ve worked in Church communications for many years. Over that time I’ve met many public relations professionals—talented people who work hard to put out the positive stories about their companies or organizations. Most are devoted to the truth, and deal with negative news honestly and directly. But I suspect some of them might have urged Mark--the author of today’s Gospel--to re-consider his portrayal of the disciples!
Mark doesn’t paint a very positive portrait. Throughout his Gospel, the disciples just don’t get it! They misunderstand Jesus’ message, engage in behavior contrary to his proclamation of the Kingdom, and abandon him at the end.
Today’s passage is a good example, as James and John vie for the top jobs in the hierarchy—right next to the Lord himself. Once more Jesus must make an example of such behavior, promising that these enterprising brothers will indeed share his lot--but through sharing the cup of suffering. His only wish is that they would choose that outcome through self-giving service.
In a way, I’m glad no one “cleaned up” Mark’s portrait of the disciples. It gives me some comfort to hear how they stumbled toward the Kingdom, when I consider my own failings! Their humanness gives us hope that God will work in our lives and will patiently remind us--as Jesus does today--that true greatness comes through serving others.