Sunday, October 21, 2018

"That These People May Live"

Today's Gospel (Mark 10: 35-45) is preceded by Jesus' third prediction in Mark's Gospel about his impending suffering, death, and resurrection.  What is the apostles' reaction?  Confusion?  Upset?  No, they are only focused on themselves.  James and John want seats on either side of Jesus when he comes into his reign.  The others are jealous and angry at this request. 

How sad Jesus must have felt at all this.  Yet, he uses this moment to teach the apostles and us about true greatness.  It does not involve honor and power.  It does not seek a position in which people look up to you.  That is not the way of Jesus, nor is it the traditional Lakota way.

Last night I finished reading a book about the great Lakota leader Crazy Horse--"The Journey of Crazy Horse" by Joseph Marshall III.  Marshall emphasized the humility of Crazy Horse that led him to sacrifice himself for his people.  He wrote: "He understood that what is accomplished in the name of and for the people belongs to the people." 

This is the spirit behind the Sun Dance, the great Lakota ceremony in which people make offerings of their flesh or a pierced so that the people may live.  They offer themselves and their flesh for the good of the tribe. 

Jesus did this so that all people may live.  He sacrificed his flesh so that all people would be freed from sin on their earthly journey and freed from death when it ended. 

Jesus humbled himself.  He--the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity--emptied himself of glory, position, and power and came among us as a weak one.  As the second reading (Hebrews 4: 14-16) says, he was a compassionate high priest, able "to sympathize with our weaknesses" because he "has been similarly tested in every way" that we are.  He knows the struggle. 

In the end, he sacrificed himself on the cross.  In the words of the Gospel, he gave "his life as a ransom for many."  He took our place, freeing us from slavery to sin and to death.

Our first reading (Isaiah 53: 10-11) comes from the fourth "Suffering Servant Song" in which the prophet predicts the Passion of God's Son.  A few verses earlier, Isaiah wrote that the Servant of God would be "pierced for our offenses."  He offered his flesh that all people may live.

Every celebration of Holy Mass makes this sacrifice present.  Jesus, the Head, renews his perfect offering and invites us, the Body, to offer ourselves with him that "these people"--those present, family and friends, national and ethnic groups, and even our enemies--may live.

On October 29 we will remember the first anniversary of the death of a good man who offered himself for others.  Fr. Bob Gilroy, S.J., was born in 1959.  After college he worked in a school for the blind.  He went back to school, earned a degree in art therapy, and then entered the Jesuits.  For ten years, at one time or another, he served the Lakota people at St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud and at the Sioux Spiritual Center where I worked with him.   He was a hospital chaplain, a spiritual director, and instructor in art therapy.  Like Jesus, he was a compassionate priest because he shared in people's weakness.   He suffered childhood diabetes, many resulting health problems, and a kidney transplant. Throughout, he kept his smile and distinctive laugh.   

In closing, let me share with you a poem that he wrote to accompany one of his paintings.  In its simplicity it reminds me of the lyrics of Lakota songs:

Christ is everything.
Stay close to him.
There is nothing else to do. 

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