Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
"The Son of Man came to give his life as a ransom for many."
The Word This Week
It's often the case that the values of the Gospel contradict the values of the World sometimes to the extent that the one is the exact opposite of the other. Today is a typical example: greatness and prominence, success and victory, these are goals that the world has very clear ideas about. The Gospel, however, redefines them: Gospel success is Worldly failure: the Gospels way of greatness is the Worlds life of service; and what the World sees as death and failure is in fact life and victory. Its this contrast that we see in the Gospel reading today, where out of a possibly innocent (but possibly sycophantic) question, a debate emerges about prominence and greatness. Jesus makes it clear that his greatness is different to that sought among the pagans ‑ he will give his very life, and so become the first of all. We should take his words about the worldly way of behaving to heart: This is not to happen among you.
Notes for Readers
This is a short passage from the lengthy collection of poetry in the Book of Isaiah know as the Song of the Suffering Servant ‑ we read great chunks of this during Lent and Holy Week, because of its obvious links to the passion and death of Our Lord. Here the link is with what Jesus says in the Gospel about being a servant (so be careful to underline that word both times it occurs). It is interesting that the paradox of the Gospel (to become first you must be last) is also visible here ‑ when the servant offers his life ... he shall have a long life. This apparent contradiction is at the heart of this passage. Be careful to take this reading very slowly. It is so brief, that it could be over and done with before the congregation has even begun to settle down. Take each line as a unit, offering it with care to the listeners, and allowing them the time to hear, and to absorb the content. Also pause after the first paragraph, since it heralds a slight change of tone ‑ the second section is much more joyful than the first.
Another short selection from this letter, but full of meaning. In essence what it is saying is this: because God has become man, and has gone through everything it is to be fully human, therefore God understands our condition. This guarantees mercy, grace and help when we need it, simply because God knows what it is like. Think of the comfort this offers to you and the congregation sitting in front of you! This is a word from God which is truly alive and active ‑ let it come across as such. Follow the argument carefully and make sure you insert emphasis and pauses in such a way that a listener can follow the argument as well ‑ emphasise especially the section beginning ...but we have one who has been tempted...
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