This Sunday we celebrate the international missionary effort of the Church throughout the world. Today we celebrate World  Mission Sunday. Here in Ireland for many centuries there have so many Irishmen and women  who have gone to foreign lands to bring the faith of our fathers to those who might not have got the faith otherwise. There have also been many people like Saint Patrick who in their turn have brought the faith to Ireland as missionaries. This Sunday celebrates the great missionary spirit that has brought the faith to all corners of the world over so many years.

In today’s Gospel two brothers James and John the sons of Zebedee are asking Jesus for a big favour to ensure their privileged seating arrangements when they come to meet Jesus in glory. The favour they want from Jesus is simply favouritism. They want to sit, one at Jesus’ right hand and the other at his left. While they don’t specify which of them should sit at Jesus’ right  no doubt that problem would have emerged later  they imagine themselves in a cosy triumvirate of their own devising. Of course Jesus blows this notion out of the water when he tells the two brothers that they don’t know what they are asking. Their request is to share Jesus’ power when he comes into glory, so timing their appointment to begin when the suffering is done but this is not the way of things.

Jesus  has already spoken about how he will be handed over to the religious authorities, who will condemn him to death and hand him over to those who will mock him and scourge him and put him to death remember Good Friday. The two disciples mention nothing of all this but Jesus reminds them.  Jesus brings the conversation back to what happens before the glory which is all about suffering not about the glory the glory comes as a result of the suffering. Jesus’ kingdom is not about who wears the crown, but who bears the cross. So he asks the brothers as he asks us today: “Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?” They boast that they can. Jesus tells them that they will have a share in his sufferings, but it isn’t for him to assign who sits where in the kingdom. The message is clear: there is no shortcut to God’s favour.

]Jesus does what he asks others and that includes you and me to do: that is to serve, not to be served; to give love freely, not to exact everyone’s worship; to reach out to those in need, not to wait for adoring approval. Christian discipleship and missionary endeavour which we celebrate today are a service industry and there is much work out there for everyone to do. This type of service should continue in the Church when that happens we will be a serving missionary people. To be servants in the way that Jesus was servant means to live in complete trust that God loves us in the way that God loved Jesus during his earthly life.

 Jesus was not  a servant out of fear of a tyrant Father, but as beloved Son, who in turn loved as he was loved. It is a free service of love, not of fear. When the Apostle Paul was cured of his blindness, he was able to say in a letter to the Christians of Ephesus: “… be imitators of God … and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over as a sacrificial offering to God …” (Ephesians 5: 1–2)

]Mission Sunday  gives us the opportunity to thank god for the faith that we have as well as thanking god for and acknowledging all those faithful missionary men and women who left everything in order to bring the faith to the far corners of the world. We pray that the Lord of the harvest will continue to inspire many people to join the missionary orders and we also pray for vocations in general to the priesthood and religious life.


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