October 17, 2021


A Reflection for the 21st Sunday After Pentecost
Hebrews 5:1-10, Mark 10:35-45; October 17, 2021

By: The Rev. Fr. Hermogenes Verano, DPA
Retired Priest, Diocese of Greater Manila Area



Pain and suffering is part and parcel of human existence: 50% load is carried by Jesus Christ our Savior; while the other 50 % is carried by us. "Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa."

Curiously, in this time of pandemic, selfishness and thoughtlessness manifest in most of the people. The lack of financial opportunities exacerbated by the danger of being exposed to the virus either in going to the employment site or in meeting with many people are enough reasons for being jobless. Hence, no income. Some families are pushed near to the dead-end, triggered by some opportunist businessmen sucking more hapless people to buy high-priced commodities. People panic to the point of hoarding; while some homes get ransacked, some are in guard of their goods for reservation. How long will this paranoia end! Grappling with financial difficulties, the town folks have become thoughtless and impatient. But afraid of death, their patience must persevere in order to live and survive. 

At the outset, let us focus our attention on the Holy Scriptures: In Job 38:1-7, the Lord said to Job, "Brace yourself like a man." While Isaiah (53:4-12) mentions about pain, suffering, affliction, transgression, inequity, and punishment. The Epistle to the Hebrews (5:1-10) talks about the High Priest, Jesus Christ, who is “able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward” and will eventually save us.

Relatively, the Gospel of Mark (10:35-45) illustrates two main lessons portrayed in the story: (1) the mistake of the disciples, particularly James and John. Selfish and thoughtless, they promised to endure suffering without fully understanding what they were promising; and (2) the patience of Jesus was immeasurable. Although they were wrong, still there was some good in them, that is, they promised to endure suffering because they sincerely wished to do right as Jesus was patient and encouraging. 

I also think that God is saying this to us, by patiently making the little bit in us grow. One good example is how we help others; the way we can ease, at least if not most, of the suffering especially in this time of pandemic. But again, how much patience Jesus must have had. The disciples continued to have so many wrong ideas although they had been with Him for a long time.

"We wish you to do for us whatever we may ask" was the request exactly the opposite of the kind of prayer which Jesus taught us to pray. In other words, the request was, "Do for us what we have decided is best." But the Christian prayer is, "Thy will be done," or that is, "We are willing to do what you want us to do." The disciples’ prayer was also a selfish desire to hold more important positions than the other disciples when Jesus would become King in Jerusalem, as they still expected that. It is not wrong to have an ambition, but this is the wrong kind of ambition.

In this connection, the two words "cup" and "water" mean suffering and danger, respectively. We are told to "be like Jesus;" illustrating here one way every Christian can be like Him by suffering willingly. The disciples said to Jesus, "We can." There was some good in this answer, "Yes we can, we are prepared to suffer with you." And after Pentecost, both of them did; later James was killed by Herod. They did not really expect that it would be necessary for either Jesus or themselves to suffer. It was thus an easy answer, "We can." But when Jesus was arrested, the disciples ran away.

Here we learn two kinds of hope: (1) the two disciples had the wrong kind, "We do not worry, evil may never come;" and (2) there’s the true hope, "We do not worry, evil may come but with God's help we shall overcome it." (See 2 Kings 6:16.).

Connectively, Mark's Gospel gives us a large number of stories which show the blindness and naivete of the disciples; and these are useful for our study. Some of them even became leaders in the Church at the time Mark was writing this. We think especially of Peter. Surely, it was not Mark’s intention to attack them. The chief reason why he tells these stories is that perhaps he wanted to show that no one could come to know or believe in Jesus by nature alone. People can only come to know Him by an act of "faith". The clever and important people do not often see who He is. These stories showed that the very same disciples who lived with Him did not truly understand Him. It was not until Jesus rose from the dead (resurrected) and the gift of the Spirit was given to them on Pentecost day that they realized and made this act of faith. Through these events, they became strong believers. 

These biblical stories give us encouragement as we see Peter and the other disciples as ordinary people like ourselves: slow to learn and unwilling to trust in God. In spite of this, they were accepted by Jesus and finally made into trusted and faithful servants of God. As for ourselves, we know that Jesus had risen for us and the Spirit is offered to us.  We are free to make our own act of faith and to “truly see Jesus.” 



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