Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sons of Thunder: a Reflection on the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Forgive me for my brashness, please, but did James and John not just have some nerve? They weren't called the "Sons of Thunder" for nothing. This week-end's reading is a perfect example.

They flat out come to Jesus and say, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." Now that statement takes a lot of nerve but I think most of us have been guilty of that when we've prayed haven't we? Maybe not all but certainly most have just gone to God and said, "GIVE ME!"

It's the next statement that really shows that they may have needed knocked down a peg. They say to Jesus, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." Jesus kind of admonishes them and tells them that they don't know what they are asking and finally tells them that it is not for him to give.

Obviously, when the other apostles hear this they are kind of ticked as I think most of us would be. But Jesus admonishes them also saying that normally rulers Lord their authority over their people and make their authority felt. Jesus goes on saying that whoever wants to be first will be the servant and the slave to all. He finishes up saying that Son of Man did not come to serve but to be served and "to give his life as a ransom for many."

We must remember that. It should be our daily mantra: not to serve but to be served. (if you'll excuse me for borrowing a word from an Eastern religion) If we recall that saying we can be transformed. To serve really is what we were made for because through serving we are able to show love for others.

This can be difficult in my line of work. As a police officer, we are in a position of authority and sometimes we don't think of ourselves as the public servants that we are. We are so used to giving commands and making decisions that we forget our roles. We forget that we are here to take care of people and not to "Lord over" them.

It can be really troubling when we (notice I said WE) look down on those who have been forgotten. It was just a drunk who got assaulted. Why should I take a report on that? Sigh, another Mexican--probably here illegally--I don't need to give her the quality of service that I give to a hard-working American taxpayer do I? We MUST remember that these are people too! We need to look on all people as children of God, made in His image and likeness, just like we are.

The primary role for all of us should be service and ministry. We should do whatever we can do to help those less fortunate than us and not rely on someone else or rely on the government to do it. To do so would to be like the Sons of Thunder and expect to sit at the side of Jesus in a position of power. If you want to be at the side of Jesus, like we all should, we need to remember that Jesus will be in the position of servitude and we should be ready to be servants too.


  1. The last sentence in paragraph 4, I think, has reversed the quotation of Jesus, at least as it is recorded in my Bible. Jesus said he came
    "not be be served but to serve."

    There is a possible alternate interpretation, however. In making ourselves available and vulnerable to others, we might say that we are "being served," that is used up, manipulated, swallowed alive. But the more traditional interpretation of this passage, I believe, is that Jesus challenges us to be of service (help) to others in order to meet their needs and to bring them new life; the challenge is that we are to live with an attitude of compassion, kindness, forgiveness.

    S. Marguerite E. Donovan, CSJ

  2. Thank you for kindly pointing out a, quite unfortunate, typo. You are correct--it is "to serve." But I like how you turned it and made it sound good. :-)