Dying To Self

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the cup that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, “We can.”
Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Gospel of St. Mark

originally delivered at the KWEST retreat, “Expect a Miracle,” this covers some of the themes that were relevant. 10/17/09

Today the Church remembers Ignatius of Antioch, a Bishop, Church Father, and Martyr. The reading in the Office recognizes his heroic virtue, to which the title saint is due to him. Ignatius entered into his death, as many martyrs did, in order to imitate Christ’s death perfectly.

The Apostles in the Sunday Gospel ask of Jesus for the Glory of God, a seat at the right hand and left hand. Jesus rebukes them because they do not understand what they are asking for. They want the easy way out. Jesus will not give it to them, Jesus did not choose it for himself. Jesus asks them if they will drink the cup that he will drink.

Indeed they do, as James is to be martyred, and John is boiled in oil (and manages to survive by some unexpected miracle). James on John do drink of this cup, and earn the title of saint. Ignatius drinks of the cup of Christ as well. The cup of the death, the cup that leads to the glory of the Resurrection, but not without the suffering of the cross.

Today we may not be expected to die a physical death to Christ, but everytime we give up our selfishness, we are dying, everytime we put the needs of others before us, we are dying. Jesus continues to assert that greatness is about becoming small, and less. Being great in heaven is reserved for those who suffered, not those with lavish lives. We become dead here, we face all our fears, our sorrows, our tragedies, and encounter Christ. Likewise, when we stop becoming so egotistical complaining about those little things that do not go our way, and decide to help those who never get anything their way, who seem to suffer needlessly, dying to them, that they may have life, as Christ died to us that we may have life, that is the message that Christ demands today.

and this demand is not merely for us to suffer. We will suffer, we will die, we will have pain. That seems to be guaranteed. But that suffering for others, suffering in dying in even one small way, to put one instance of someone before us, could be that simple death we need today, to get closer to following Christ perfectly.

And in that death, there is so much freedom, freedom letting go of ourselves. there is also a lot more peace, and maybe we get closer to the right hand of God, it certainly feels that way.


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