Today the Holy Mother Church celebrates World Mission Sunday, as was decreed by Pope Pius XI in 1926, for every Church/institution/parish. The year 2019, we had the central theme: “Baptized and sent,” which was aimed at rekindling the missionary spirit in the life of the Church. Last year it was the question of the Lord, “Whom shall I send?” (Is 6:8) and for this year the theme of the mission Sunday is, “For we cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). This year’s focus is on the missionary language, which is to love and serve. Despite the challenges that confront us as a people and most especially as Christians today, the Holy Father Pope Francis courageously invites us to generously share the love we experience with one another, and this is achievable when we learn to serve and sacrifice. The Gospel of today presents to us the request of James and John, the sons of Zebedee to sit at the right and left hand in the glory of Christ.
The antecedent to this pericope in Mark is the announcement of the coming passion of Christ. He said, “They were on their way to Jerusalem…” (10:32). Drawing near to Jerusalem, the disciples sensed the danger of their mission, they were afraid but courageously followed Christ to accomplish His mission. Probably they were thinking of Christ establishing a political kingdom in Jerusalem, which had made them earlier on to discuss who would be the greatest among them in Mark 9:33-34. And in spite of the announcement of the coming passion, suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the interests of James and John remained a position of status in an earthly kingdom and so they sought for political appointments in Christ’s administration. Their request prompted Christ to describe true greatness when He said, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave to all.
” To be servant is to sacrifice ourselves like a candle burning to give light to others who sit in darkness. As the candle diminishes in the process of illuminating, so it is with our earthly life in sacrifice for the good of others. Practically, our life and mission as Christians is that of sacrifice, in imitation of Christ our Lord. If this is the case, will people ambitiously long for leadership positions or political appointments? Do we have the interest of serving others or is it about our selfish interests? Is our service aimed at gaining popularity, fame or money? Certainly, this happens among society groups and even among priests and religious. In some dioceses with aged Bishops, we hear of some priests aspiring to be the next bishop even before the death of the current one. At times we hear of some religious secretly scheming and campaigning to be superiors of congregations.
If this is the case, we may ask: why the struggle for power or leadership positions if truly we intend to serve? In view of this Christ said, “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Real ministry is done for the benefit of those ministered to, not for the benefit of the minister. Sometimes, we find many people in the ministry for what they can receive from their people, instead of what they can give. As a good example for us, Christ gave his life as a ransom, which connotes service and sacrifice, which are only born out of love. Long before Christ’s service and sacrifice, Isaiah in the first reading had earlier prophesied of Christ the suffering servant, who would be bruised and put to grief. Christ was no victim of circumstance, or at the mercy of any political or military power.
It was the plan of the Lord hundreds of years before it happened. In his suffering, passion and death, he performed the most holy sacrifice ever offered to God the Father, and the driving force for this sacrifice is love. In the second reading, the letter to the Hebrews describes the mission of Christ as the high priest full of love and compassion, able to sympathize with our weaknesses because he had been tested in every way, yet without sin. In humility he lowered himself to our condition as man, experienced our pains and sufferings. This is a demonstration of God’s love, which is the language we are all called to speak and share today. Hence, as we celebrate the World Mission Sunday, we are urged to be partakers of Christ’s mission to speak on love and sacrifice through our words and actions. The liturgy urges us to support the mission of Christ as a collective responsibility, as “some give to the mission by going while others go to the mission by giving.” It also reminds us of who we are: we are missionaries in different capacities by the virtue of our baptism, and that is why it is necessary that we renew our baptismal commitments every year. Lastly, it teaches us that it is in humility, love and service that we are enabled to sit on the throne of God.