29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021.
Is 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45
Our calling to give until it hurts
“Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace for timely help.”
I arrived at a convent of the Missionaries of Charity sisters to teach for a few days. It was my first time there. I was tired and slightly frustrated after the many hours of travel in Manila traffic and losing my way several times because of the many wrong directions I received on my way there. On entering the convent, I saw a plaque with a quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta, “Give until it hurts.” I felt that this saint was listening to my disturbed heart then and asking me to continue to serve despite all the pains and discomforts of life.
How can we give until it hurts? How can we serve God and others when it is painful to do so? Is this saint asking us to do the impossible? Is Jesus asking us for too much when He says that we must freely choose to be slaves? “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola ended his Spiritual Exercises with an exercise called the Contemplation to attain the love of God in which he tells us two things to keep in mind if our love for God is going to sustain us in serving Him when it hurts. Firstly, “Love should manifest itself in deeds rather than in words.” Secondly, “Love consists in a mutual sharing of goods, or something of that which he has or is able to give; and vice versa, the beloved shares with the lover.”
This is how God loves us in Christ Jesus: loving deeds that bring us into a mutual sharing with Him. His love is no mere words. In His great love, He humbled Himself to become one like us and to share in all that is ours, “For 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.” He shared in our weakness and trials so that we too can share in His life of love through grace, “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”(Heb 4:15-16)
Though He was “tested in every way,” Jesus loved and served His Father faithfully. He is Isaiah’s suffering servant who shares with us that faithful love that makes us God’s faithful children too, “If He gives His life as an offering for sin, He shall see His descendants in a long life, and the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through Him.”(Is 53:10) We are indeed His descendants in the way of love and fulfilment of the Father’s will because it is His love in us that makes us faithful in serving God even in the pains of life.
Mk 10:35-45 shows us Jesus’ talkative disciples who fail to be completely open to share in all that belongs to Christ. They are only focused on sharing in His final glory, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus reminds them that their asking is not enough without their readiness to share in His suffering too, “You do not know what you are asking.” They continue to give themselves to more talking, arguing, and emotional venting, “When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.”
Jesus points them to two things. First, instead of only speaking and arguing, they are to focus on loving action that is expressed in selfless service of all persons, “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” Secondly, they must be ready to share in all that belongs to Jesus Christ, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” There is no other way to true greatness in the eyes of God.
The only way that we can hope to serve until it hurts and serve while it hurts is to willingly share in all that belongs to Jesus Christ as He freely choose to share in all that is ours. This is Jesus’ longing for us, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.”(Jn 15:9) Lovers must share all!
We must first begin by sharing in His own life through grace. The hurts of life will snuff out our life of service if we are not striving to live in a state of grace and to grow in this grace through prayer, sacraments, and living His will at each moment. We are also to share in His attitude of selfless service in a world that seeks personal exaltation at all cost, “Their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you.” Ours cannot be that worldly domination of others at all cost if we hope to serve Him even when it hurts.
We must also be ready to share in Christ’s redemptive mission if we are going to serve until it hurts. The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was necessary to free us from slavery to the devil, sin, and death. His mission was to set souls free and fill them with His life. We too participate in His mission by freely sharing in the sufferings of Christ that divine providence places before us at each moment and uniting these sufferings to His own sufferings as St. Paul did, “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s affliction for the sake of His body, that is, the Church.”(1Col 1:24)
We cannot serve Jesus until it hurts when we reduce our mission as Christians to merely caring for the environment. We must be willing to share in Jesus’ life purpose if we are going to serve Him until the end, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Unless we freely share in all these things that belong to Jesus alone, we can never serve Him in our hurts and ultimately share with Him in His heavenly glory, “The Father will honor whoever serves me.”(Jn 12:26)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter our state of life in the Church, we find it particularly difficult to persevere in serving others because of the many hurts that we experience. We too are “tempted in every way” to quit serving God in others. We experience failure, rejection, misunderstanding, fatigue, discouragement, temptation, criticism, personal weakness, persecution, etc. It is so easy to hold back and withdraw into self-preservation. Our internet age compounds our problems because we start talking too much and focusing on our feelings. Sadly, the more we talk and vent, the less we actually do in the name of love.
Instead of simply venting and giving up our commitments to serve in the face of these hurts, let us refocus on the Lord Jesus on the crucifix and see where faithful service will surely lead us as we follow Christ in His mission. In our crucified Savior, God is sharing in all our suffering and offering us both healing mercy and grace to love like Jesus Christ who “loved us and gave Himself for us.”(Gal 2:30) We must let Jesus share in all our sufferings and be willing to share in all that He offers to us too so that we can serve others even when it hurts.
During His agony in Gethsemane, Jesus faced the pains and hurts of service and asked that He be delivered, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup away from me.” He eventually surrendered to His Father even as it hurt, “Not my will but yours be done.”(Lk 22:42) He drank the cup and received the strength to go to Calvary for our redemption.
Our Eucharist is always a sharing in that same cup of Jesus’s suffering. But it is also our sharing in His own divine consolation and strength by which He gave Himself to the Father for our sake even when it hurts. The Eucharist cup is indeed that throne of grace. Let us approach Jesus always with confidence and receive the help that we need to give ourselves in service until it hurts and to give even when it hurts.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!