|HOMILY FOR SUNDAY OCTOBER 22, 2006
You know as Jesus speaks these words in our gospel, He is making His journey to Jerusalem, where He knows well what will happen to Him. In fact He has predicted three times to His disciples that He will be delivered into the hands of the religious authorities in Jerusalem, tortured, crucified, and yet three days after, He will rise from the dead. It is clear and obvious then, that Jesus has no illusions about what fate awaits Him at the end of the road.
It is also, unfortunately, just as clearly obvious that Jesus’ disciples have not the faintest idea what He is talking about. They are still fondly imagining that when they arrive at Jerusalem, Jesus will receive a king’s welcome, and they along with Him. So now is the time, as they see it, to hustle Jesus for the places of honour at His right and left, when Jesus takes His rightful place on the royal throne of his ancestor, King David.
James and John seize the opportunity to put in their bid for those choice places in today’s gospel, much to the annoyance of the other disciples, who are only upset that they didn’t think to ask it first! They can see themselves sitting at the royal banquet table, next to Jesus and, in the custom of Jewish society of that day, sharing from His cup and His plate. And there is an exquisite irony in Jesus’ response that indeed they will drink from His cup, only He knows that this cup will be the cup of suffering. James will end up being beheaded by King Herod and John will end up his days in lonely exile on the island of Patmos.
Jesus is right in saying also that it will not be His choice for places at His right and His left at His glory. For His glory will come at Calvary on the cross, and at the end of the gospel we will find out that at Jesus’ right and left as He dies are two criminalsanother exquisite piece of irony. Be careful what you ask of the Lord, you may get more than you bargain for.
But let’s back up for a minute. Why does Jesus stop three times on His journey to Jerusalem to tell His disciples what is waiting for them when they reach journey’s end? I believe He does that because He wants to give them the chance to make their decision whether they will go with Him all the way, or leave Him and go their own way.
You may remember way back at the beginning of this year that I said I believed this will be the year of decision for all people. I quoted from the prophet Joel (4:14) that we are being called by God to enter into the valley of decision. I know that many of us have, in different ways, been led to make major decisions in our lives, decisions in terms of jobs, homes and relationships, especially decisions to make Jesus Christ Lord of every aspect of our lives. Last week many of us made a courageous decision to make Christ Lord also of our finances, so we are at the cutting edge of where most people in the West choose to place their security, and we said our security will not be in our wallets but in the Lord.
Well, all this to say, that the year is rapidly approaching its end as the cold and wet weather and darkening evenings makes quite clear. But there is still time for those who have not made that surrender of their lives, of all their lives, their health, relationships, property, finances and so on into the hands of the Lord and say to Him, henceforth I will place my trust for my future, my security in You, who are eternal, not in these things which are temporary, still time I say to make that handing over of the rest of your life to Jesus, and experience when you do so a new lightness and peace and joy and freedom from fear and anxiety and loneliness.
Fr. Bob Poole