The final words of today’s Gospel passage from Mark are startling—but not as startling as they were two thousand years ago:
For the Son of Man
did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life
in ransom for many.
Obviously James and John had other ideas, two brothers wanting to “sit,” one at the right and one at the left of the new King. So excited were they, they did not even pick up on Jesus’ hard question, “Can you drink of the same cup as I will drink?”
Whether it be for lack of employment, lost savings, an education on hold, natural disasters, or war—for so many of our brothers and sisters in the world, people are facing hard times. But actually, with these realities providing a context, a person might just be in a better position to understand Jesus’ call to serve rather than to be served. When times are tough, those who reach out to help and take care—to serve the needs of others—touch us, give us consolation, and restore our hope in humanity.
What is more and what Jesus would have us understand is that to serve is going to necessitate in some way also being a “ransom” for another’s misfortune. If I tutor a failing student or bring a homebound person to church, in some manner or another I have to put myself out. I am offering myself as a ransom for someone else to gain knowledge and skill; I am providing my time and my care as ransom for another to be liberated from otherwise being homebound. Service and ransom go hand in hand.
As we celebrate this Mass together, this Most Holy Eucharist, we are offering thanks to the Father for giving us his Son as ransom for us and particularly for our sins—for then, for now, and for the ages. This is why the Christian may count his or her acts of loving kindness, especially when it involves personal sacrifice, as being united to Jesus, the Savior, and as LIVING THE EUCHARIST. At the conclusion of this Mass, the dismissal will probably be, “Let us go forth to glorify the Lord by the way we live our lives.” That means to go forth and offer ourselves as ransom in whatever way God shows us or leads us. May God strengthen our resolve—even our joy—to do so.