‘What is it you want me to do for you?’
This is one of the 200 questions – often rhetorical – that Jesus poses to His disciples in the Gospel. This question in fact echoes down the ages and into the heart of every follower of Christ. It is a question worth pondering today. In fact the question remains the same but our answers as well as our requests often change throughout our lives. As children we have childish concerns, as adolescents we have confusion and uncertainty with identity and purpose, as young adults we have fears as we embark on a career path, and a choice of state in life, as married adults we have concerns about finances and child-rearing, as older people we ask 'who will look after me in my old age?', 'will I have enough to ensure proper care?', and so on. These are some of the understandable common and important life questions we all have.
‘What is it you want me to do for you?’
‘Master we want you to do us a favour.’
What the disciples are in fact looking for is future security but also status. The latter is a purely worldly concern, and in fact is something that we have to take care doesn’t lurk in our hearts. The desire for notice, being the centre of attention, of celebrity and notoriety – are all deep down vain quests and attempts to achieve immortality. It is vanity and pride that we feel that we are somehow deserving of a special favour. This can be accompanied - in worldly terms - by a certain glitter, glamour, wealth, comfort with buzz words like ‘fabulous’, ‘gorgeous’ in fashion and celebrity magazines. It appeals to our baser instincts of competitiveness and a drive to get ahead of the posse. It is about assuming a particular kind of power and influence. It is short-lived, vain, empty and useless.
This is not to take away the proper application of talent – but it is where we can get callous, stepping on toes, not caring who gets hurt along the way, utilising the phrase ‘tough’ to losers – that is worldly and in fact unchristian. This is why Jesus uses the term ‘so-called rulers’ who ‘lord it over them’.
THIS MUST NOT HAPPEN AMONG YOU
This is the temptation of clergy – that of careerism and ‘getting ahead’, with titles and obeisance. But it is also the temptation that faces us all.
‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many’.Like the famous quotation ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country, so it with Jesus. He turns our ambitions on their heads, and reminds us that we are called to serve, because it is in giving that we receive. We must be the ones asking the question of Jesus; ‘What is it You want me to do for You?’
Today is Mission Sunday when we as a Church community are annually reminded of the fact that many men and women throughout the world have devoted and continue to devote their whole lives and livelihood to the great mission of the Church to ‘go make disciples of all nations’.
We thank God that Ireland has been one of the leading missionary countries in the Church to provide priests and nuns, brothers and sisters to mission areas, to schools, colleges, orphanages, hospitals, hospices and clinics – providing material and spiritual assistance to those in greatest need, often in dangerous conditions, in forbidding climates, in disease-ridden places, and many have died away from home and family.
We think of the many missionaries who embarked from Cobh who celebrated Mass for the last time in the Cathedral – many older men in the parish have told me of their experience of getting a half crown for serving Mass as altar boys for an American missionary priest at one of the side altars in the cathedral. We think of missionary martyrs who died as a result of persecution in communist lands, and we remember in prayer those who continue to minister in places with a Muslim majority who can at times be hostile to the faith. We think of parishioners or relations who have spent time on the missions – spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, baptising and spreading the Faith.
We think of the many millions of punts and Euros contributed down through the years by Irish people. God will never let of an act of generous sacrifice go unnoticed or forgotten.
Finally we think of the importance of prayer for the Missions. I recall one story of a priest in a Chinese Communist prison for a number of years. Each evening he would feel the burden and suffering lift – for a full hour every day he felt a great sense of peace and consolation. It was only after his eventual release from prison and return home that this hour of relief exactly coincided with an hour of prayer his anxious mother prayed for him each day.
SUPPORT the Missions - the word can sum up our efforts:
Remembering in your will and