MEMORIAL OF ST PHILIP NERI
26th May 2020
Sirach 36: 1, 4‐5a, 10‐17;
Ps 79: 8, 9, 11, and 13;
Mark 10: 32‐45
ESTABLISHMENT OF GODS KINGDOM
As we grow in our relationship with the Lord Jesus and His Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, it is sometimes tempting for us to want God to manifest the divine presence to us so that we can see some specific signs of God’s power or to at least know we are on the right track with our lives. Today’s readings and psalm request God to “show” us divine greatness.
The First Reading could be taken as being a boastful presumption that God will do what we ask, even if our desires are not the most theocentric (“God‐centred”).
Some people may particularly be offended by the lines which say, “. . .put all the nations in dread of You! Thus, they will know, as we know, that there is no God but You, O Lord.” It sounds like the person lifting up this prayer wants to scare others into believing in God. I perceive that the true reason for this prayer is to give God glory and not to demonstrate the boastful relationship one has with God, and therefore this prayer is an act of worship.
In the Gospel, Jesus and His apostles are approaching Jerusalem. Jesus realizes that the time of the establishment of the Reign of God is at hand.
The disciples take this as a civil revolt against the Roman occupation and the restoration of the glory of the Kingdom of Israel. Even though Jesus tells them that He will be arrested, tortured, and murdered, they can only imagine the coming of a new earthly empire with Jesus at the centre and themselves at His right and left hand with them sharing in His power and authority. Jesus, however, lets them know that they will share His destiny, but that is a destiny of having to suffer and die in service of others.
As I reflect on the readings, I am challenged to reflect on my own view of the establishment of God’s Reign. I am often like the apostles and the person praying in the First Reading. I want God to demonstrate the divine power in ways that favour me, even if it is at the cost of others. I want the Lord Jesus to put anyone who disagrees with me in a position of submission to me. My focus is not on Jesus, but on myself. That is when there are problems. Whenever I try to make God see things my way, I have stepped out of bounds.
My focus must be on Jesus’ words at the end of today’s Gospel: “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If we truly want to be part of the Reign of God which Jesus has established, we must be willing to serve others and think of them rather than of ourselves.
Our willingness to be of service to others, however, does not mean that we totally give up our personal longings. We must just allow our longings to be in line with what God would have us do with our lives. We may want to have a healthy and good relationship with another person and to fulfill ourselves by being a loving spouse and possibly a parent. Or we may have a strong desire to be more active in church ministry.
If this is what we want, we must lift up our prayer to God, asking the Lord Jesus to allow us to fulfill our dream, if it be according to God’s will. It must not be just so we can have a more prestigious place in the Reign of God, but that we may more fully share in the cup of loving service of which Jesus drank.
It is okay if we present our needs before God. The purpose of our prayer must always be that God be glorified in the granting of our prayer. Or to use the words of today’s psalmist, we must say: “Then we, Your people and the sheep of Your pasture, will give thanks to You forever; through all generations we will declare Your praise.”