29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – B
October 18, 2015


The first reading talks about the patient suffering of the prophesied Messiah, the suffering servant, through whom, “the Lord’s will shall be accomplished.” The second reading, from the letter to the Hebrews is some kind of a pep talk to people ever tempted to give up on what they believed.

It was a plea to fellow believers to hold on, “since [they] had a high priest who has passed through the heavens.”

The Gospel passage reminds us of a temptation that is every bit as real as the temptation to give up – the ever lurking danger and temptation of asking for what is not due us, looking for something greater than us, and aiming for something that is not meant for us.

I know the feeling. Who among us has not at any point in our lives aimed for something that is beyond us? Who among us has not wanted to get something that we really do not deserve, no matter our pretensions and utter convictions that we deserved it?

What child has not made tantrums because he or she wanted that toy at all cost for Christmas? Who among us can honestly say we have not secretly pined for something we didn’t have just because it simply dawned on us that we wanted it?

I know the feeling. I know the deed. I know what it means for James and John to be asking the Lord to put them one at his right and one at his left. Remember … they were just as human and real as you and me.

And human and real also mean being ambitious and covetous, unmindful of the consequences of our wants and desires, most of them unbridled and undeserved.

Let me focus today on these consequences …

The Lord chose to follow the Father’s will. The prophesied suffering servant accepted his call and everything else that came with it: much pain and suffering, like we are told by Isaiah.

There is no doubt about the decision and choice of James and John to follow the Lord. But today, after they made their desires known to the Lord, the Lord made them realize the consequences of their choice: “You do not know what you asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

As of latest count, more than a dozen have filed their candidacy for the Presidency alone. Scores more aim at becoming senators and hundreds, aim to be congressmen, while thousands want to be mayors or governors in next year’s national elections.

They don’t know what they are asking. (But many of them sure know what they are getting!)

And this is where the good news and the bad news lie. The bad news is this … Many people are just like James and John version one … They just wanted the perks, not the works. They just desired the position, not the responsibility.

This, too, was the plight of the Hebrews. They were being tested to the core. They were undergoing immense trials. They were choosing whether to give up and go back to Judaism or persevere and follow the path of the suffering servant, put to death, and silenced ostensibly by the Jews, in cahoots with Roman officials.

It appeared like a no brainer to many of them. Why continue to suffer? Why go on following the teaching of someone and end up like him, slaughtered by the powers-that-be, or beheaded by people who hate God and who hate what God stands for?

It was the perfect temptation to apostatize altogether and begin unraveling one’s life complicated by faith in Him who suffered, died and rose for our salvation.

The good news then, is this …

We are still face to face with the need to decide … the need for us to make a choice. The Hebrews were told by the letter writer to hold on, to plod on. We are told the same thing today by the same Lord who made his choice clear. And he lived and died and rose to prove to the world that He meant every word He uttered. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Is your choice clear?