The Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Isa 53:10-11 + Heb 4:14-16 + Mk 10:35-45
October 21, 2018
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews, from which Sunday’s Second Reading is taken, offers a profound meditation on the meaning that suffering gains through Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross. Here one of the best-known definitions of “courage” is illustrated: “not the absence of fear, but fear that has been prayed over.”
In other words, courage means being willing to bring God into a decision about whether to fight or flee from conflict. Once God shows you whether a conflict demands your involvement, the stakes are raised. Because to abandon a conflict in which God has staked a claim is to abandon God Himself.
Three years ago, in a ruling about marriage that will continue to worsen our nation for many years to come, the U.S. Supreme Court doubled down on the principle of moral relativism that it had defined in a 1992 ruling supporting the legality of abortion, claiming that at “the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
In the face of this sort of claim and the suffering it inevitably causes, you as a Christian have four paths to consider taking. Two are against conflict. The first of these is the path of resignation. Many Christians walk this path saying, “It’s not for me to impose my morality on others.”
A second path leads away from conflict, but into a bunker. Those who choose this path say, “Culture today is going to ‘you know where’ in a handbasket.” They close above them the door to their bunker, and inside they live the Faith without passing it on to anyone except perhaps their children, who like them are isolated from others.
In the opposite direction, there are two paths that engage conflict. Each demands its own type of courage. The first is the path of aggression. Its operating theory is that life is a “zero-sum game” that says, “I can’t win unless you lose.” This path requires the courage of the child’s game “King of the Hill”.
The second path that accepts conflict demands the Christian virtue of courage. This is the courage of Christ the King, who did not dominate as king on the hill of Calvary, but sacrificed his life there. The offering of His life was so others could join Him there: not just “us”, but all mankind. That is to say, we fight in defense of objective Truth not to defeat others, but so that they would join in adoring the One who called Himself “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”.
Jesus promises James and John in Sunday’s Gospel passage, “‘The cup that I drink, you will drink’”. Little do the brothers know at this point how much and what sort of courage they will have to bear for these words to be fulfilled. James was martyred for the Truth, while John lived a long life preaching the Truth in word and work, ending his life in exile on the island of Patmos. No matter how the Lord calls you to spend your days on this earth, courage from the heart of Christ our King will be needed. Simply ask Him for this gift then, trusting that in Jesus “we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens.”