Sunday Sermon for October 18, 2015, the Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Is 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45
In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that He came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. This is our hope for eternal salvation and, obviously, it is our hope for mercy. Without mercy and the forgiveness of our sins, we certainly would have no means of be able to attain eternal life.

While we are all very grateful for our Lord’s humility and charity in serving us and offering His life for us, it is astounding that so few have any real desire or inclination to follow His example. Many of us fall into the same problem as the Apostles and want to be great. We want to sit at our Lord’s right hand, but we do not want to drink from the cup from which He drank or be baptized with the baptism with which He was baptized. This cup and baptism, in this context, imply His suffering.

In the first reading, God reveals through the Prophet Isaiah that His Servant would justify many and that He would bear their guilt. This can be spoken of only with reference to Jesus. However, Jesus has established a Mystical Body through which He would continue the work He accomplished in His time on earth. This Mystical body would be the servant of all, it would carry on the work of salvation by sharing in His suffering and offering His sacrifice. That Mystical Body is the Church and you are a member of it.

This becomes critical for us because we cannot escape the responsibility (and the great privilege) of participating in the work of salvation. It goes without saying that none of us can save anyone; in fact, all of us combined cannot bring a single soul to salvation by our own doing. However, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ our suffering can become His suffering, our sacrifices can become part of His sacrifice, our service becomes His service and, thereby, has the power to save others.

This power to save others is only possible because Jesus is living and working in and through us. For this to happen we must be in the state of grace, but we must also be willing to unite our suffering with His and to make the choice to serve rather than to be served. This service, it must be stated, has to be done out of charity. Anyone can suffer or be forced into some kind of service, complaining and despising it all the while. In order to have a part in our Lord’s work, we must be willing to accept humbly whatever our Lord gives us and freely choose to give it to Him.

St. Paul says in the second reading that we have a great High Priest and that we can confidently approach the throne of grace for grace and timely help. All of this is true, but we see the Apostles James and John approach Jesus in the Gospel today and their confidence was turned back. This is due to the fact that they were acting out of selfishness rather than acting out of charity. They wanted to the to be exalted without first humbling themselves.

We can approach the Lord with confidence when we act as He did. If we are willing to be the servants of others, if we are willing to unite our sufferings with His for the sake of others. This does not require that we have to do great things like we have seen in people like Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She is a Saint because of what she did, but you and I can become Saints (without being canonized) by quietly, humbly, living the life of Christ in our daily lives.

It is not required that you go out of your way to find someone to serve. If you are married you already made a vow to serve another person. If you have children, there is no shortage of opportunities or serve. But we have to take note of our disposition. Are we serving willingly or are we feeling forced to do something against our will? Are we serving others out of charity or are we doing it begrudgingly? Are we serving others with joy or are we complaining about it? Are we serving humbly or are we hoping that others notice what we are doing?

These are the kinds of things we can all look at with regard to our disposition. In prayer, consider what our Lord did and the way that He did it and strive to follow His example. Then we can have confidence in approaching Him because He will be continuing His work in us and through us and we will be blessed for participating in the salvation of others.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit