Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
October 18, 2015
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Mark 10:35
I do not watch much television, if at all, but patiently endure some commercials that interrupt news programs which I do watch. One such commercial reflected a typical modern approach to life.
An airline is advertising its international service. There, seated against the backdrop of a dreamy cloud-like setting, is a lady in a very spacious reclining seat sipping a drink with an attentive flight crew member looking on. Besides the fact that my experience with commercial airline travel looks nothing like this and really is more like being confined to a straightjacket in a seat with the comfort of a park bench, it is the jingle that caught my attention. “It’s all about you,” a voice sings. “It’s all about you.”
Well, is it?
“It’s all about you” is actually nothing new. “It’s” been around for a long time. As a matter of fact, it is very human. “It’s all about you” is the attitude that seems to consume James and John in today’s Gospel. They come to Jesus to ask a favor. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10:35). And what is this request? They want a privilege, to be seated at the right and left of Jesus when He enters into His glory (Mark 10:37). Never mind that a few verses earlier Jesus has predicted His suffering and death. It’s all about them. They are thinking only of themselves.
Jesus gently, I think, explains that they will have the opportunity to share His passion. This is what drinking from the cup means, a reference in the Scriptures that refers to suffering. Then, to summarize the call to suffering, sacrifice, and dying to self, Jesus concludes, “[W]hover wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all” (Mark 10:44).
The call to the Christian vocation is ultimately not about you. The mistake James and John make is to think only of themselves. One might say they are focused in the wrong direction. They are admiring themselves in the mirror.
But the Christian vocation is not about you or me. It is about Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ came to serve and “to give his life as a ransom for the many” (Mark 10:45). He is the sacrificial lamb, the offering for sin, the immolated victim, and He expects His followers to be willing to share in this rejection of self. If we do not understand this, then we run the risk of swallowing the modern notion, so well typified by the airline commercial, that “It’s all about you.”
Jesus corrected the selfishness of James and John. He did so gently but He did so clearly and in no uncertain terms. The true follower of Jesus is willing to accept the role of servant, the work of a slave, joining himself to Jesus by identifying with His victimhood. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). It’s all about Jesus Christ.
Bishop Glen John Provost