29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Vinner)
My Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
Central theme: Today’s Scripture readings describe leadership as the sacrificial service done for others and offer Jesus as the best example. They also explain the servant leadership of Jesus, pinpointing service and sacrifice as the criteria of greatness in Christ’s Kingdom.
The first reading is a Messianic prophecy taken from the Fourth Servant Song in the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It tells how the promised Messiah will save mankind by sacrificing himself as the atonement for our sins. Jesus has done this sacrificial service of love for us as the Suffering Servant by giving his life on the cross as an offering for sin, interceding for us and taking our punishment on himself.
The second reading, taken from the letter to the Hebrews, tells us that, as a God-man and mediator-High Priest, Jesus has offered a fitting sacrifice to God his Father by offering himself as ransom to liberate us from the slavery of sin. In the time of Jesus, ransom was the price paid to free someone from slavery. Sometimes the ransomer offered himself as a substitute for the slave, as Jesus did. The reading also speaks of a high priest who is able to sympathize with us in our weakness because he has been tested in every way, though sinless, and so we can “confidently” hope for God’s mercy.
Today’s Gospel explains how Jesus has accomplished his mission of saving mankind from the slavery of sin by becoming the “Suffering Servant.” Here, Jesus challenges his followers to become great by serving others with sacrificial agape love: “Whoever wishes to be great must be a servant.” Jesus commands us to liberate others as he has freed all of us, by giving ourselves to them in loving and humble service.
Whenever we talk about mission and spreading the gospel several ideas might come to our minds.
We may think of the missionaries who go to other countries like China, Cambodia, and Laos, to build up the churches there. We may also think that missionaries are usually priests or religious or some specially chosen lay people because speaking the Gospel is a serious thing and not everyone can do it. We may also think that our task is to pray for these missionaries and also to give them some financial support.
Today’s celebration of Mission Sunday reminds us that we have an important role in the spreading of the gospel. Let me tell you this story so that we can have a deeper understanding of our role and mission.
An old man was going around planting small fruit trees. Some asked him when these trees would bear fruit. He replied: Oh, probably many years after I am gone from this earth. So then, why plant trees when he won’t be around to enjoy the fruits? His reply was this: When I came into this world, I didn’t find this world without any fruit trees. I enjoyed the fruits. Now I plant these fruit trees for those who will come after me, just as those who have done before me. These are very profound words of the old man – I plant these fruit trees for those who will come after me, just as those who have done before me.
When we reflect upon the words of the old man, we will also come to a deeper understanding of our faith and mission. We will come to see that the faith we have had been built upon and handed down to us by the earlier generation of believers. What we have received, we too must build it up and hand it over to the next generation. That is not just the work of missionaries, priests, religious and a selected few parishioners.
Each of us has a task in the spreading of the gospel. Just as trees bear fruit and gives us shade, so is each one of us called to plant trees of faith that bear fruits of truth and love. Trees are important not just because they bear fruit and provide shade and beauty. Trees have an ecological importance. A world without trees is like a dry desert wasteland. Similarly, faith is important for the world. This world needs God and needs to know His truth and love. A world without God and His truth and love becomes a dark and dangerous world. So, Mission Sunday reminds each of us that we have a task and a responsibility.
We have to continue planting trees of faith that will bear fruits of truth and love. And we have to start planting these trees of faith in our homes, in our parish, in our workplace, in our own country. This world needs to know God. This world needs to know His truth and love.
Life Messages: 1) We are challenged to give our lives in loving service to others. As Christians, we are all invited to serve others – and to serve with a smile! We are challenged to drink the cup of Jesus by laying down our lives in humble, sacrificial service for others, just as Jesus did. The best place to begin the process of service by “self-giving,” is in our own homes and workplaces. When parents sacrifice their time, talents, health and blessings for the welfare of others in the family, they are serving God. Service always involves suffering, because we can’t help another without some sacrifice on our part. We are rendering great service to others also when we present them and their needs before God daily in our prayers.
2) We are invited to servant leadership: In order to become an effective Christian community, we need lay leaders with the courage of Christian convictions to work for social justice. We need spiritual leaders who can break open the word for us, lead us in our prayer, offer us on the altar, and draw us together as sacrament.
May God Bless us
FR. S.Vinner HGN