Sometimes, the “key” to the Mass readings is found in the Antiphons. Today’s Entrance Antiphon invites us to see and receive our chosenness: “The Lord became my protector. He brought me out to a place of freedom; he saved me because he delighted in me.”
“Delight” is not the word that comes to mind when I consider how others – or God Himself – see me. Do we believe that God “delights” in us? Much of the time, I only see my faults and failings, and I don’t like myself too much. But God still delights in me, or at least in who He created me to be (and I am still in the process of becoming). When we know deeply that God delights in us, that He has saved us, that we have been “born anew” through His Word, we learn to stop grasping for more than we are meant to have. We are content with being loved by Love and we can at last begin to seek ways to love in return.
In today’s Gospel, it is clear that the disciples still do not understand Jesus’ mission of love, even as he takes the Twelve aside to tell them that he will be handed over and condemned to death, mocked, spit upon, scourged, and executed! After this explication of what is about to happen, James and John still come to him to ask for a share in his glory.
What glory? We can assume they were not referring to eternal glory; they still believed, somehow, that Jesus would overthrow the oppression of Israel and establish his rule on earth, and they were close enough to the Master to suggest to him that they should sit right next to him when he took his throne.
Jesus points out to them that they do not know what they are asking. And the other ten apostles become indignant at the request of James and John, concerned that they are being out-maneuvered, left out of the glory, somehow at risk for being given less authority and recognition! As he had done so many times before, Jesus patiently explained that the truth is the exact opposite of what the world values: authority, position, and glory are not found in the power to rule over others but rather in the humble love that serves others like a slave: “Whoever whishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” And he holds himself up as the model when he points out that he did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom.
This lesson must have sunk in deeply and become indispensable “Gospel Grammar,” as St. Peter writes in today’s first reading about our being ransomed with the precious Blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18). Christ poured himself out for us completely, holding nothing back, so that we who were prisoners to sin and darkness might be bought back from the futile ways we learn from the world. The disciples learned this lesson as they walked with Christ and watched him hand himself over to death.
Are we still learning this lesson? Are we still acting according to the futile conduct the world insists will bring us happiness? How far are we on the path to becoming full citizens of the Kingdom of God, surrendering to God who surrenders Himself to us? Are we afraid to put ourselves in service to the Kingdom? Christ is the model to which we must conform our lives: we must be willing to become Bread for the world, to be a libation that is poured out completely for the sake of others.
This does not come naturally to any of us. Self-gift is made possible when we let go of the idea that we need to earn God’s love. And we are impelled to pour ourselves out by the presence of the Spirit and Fire of Jesus within us, which we are given at Baptism and Confirmation.
Finally, we are conformed to the image of the Son when we know with certainty that God saves us because He lovingly delights in us, and we live within the horizons of this unearned dignity.
Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at www.kathryntherese.com or on Facebook @summapax