29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): The Dream of God
(Adults, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
For several weeks now, we have listened to Jesus teaching his disciples as they walk towards Jerusalem. Since it is a very long walk, taking many days, Jesus has time to teach the twelve many things about the Kingdom of God. He wants them to understand the Plan of God. He wants them to share God's dream. Unfortunately, the disciples often just do not quite get it.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
This is honest, we suppose. James and John want something from Jesus. They do not seem to be asking him, though, are they? They are announcing. It sounds like a demand. Is this what their relationship with Jesus is like? Would we say James and John in right-relationship with Jesus?
And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
James and John are thinking about the Kingdom of God. They want to sit beside Jesus in his glory. God has glory. Glory is how MAGNIFICENT God is. James and John are thinking about the Kingdom of God in all its fullness—the Kingdom of God complete.
But Jesus says,
“You do not know what you are asking...to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant...
Jesus does not refuse to do as they ask. Instead, he says that it is not his decision. Whose decision is it then? Jesus knows. Jesus is in right-relationship with God.
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.
We can understand why the others might be angry. Why are James and John asking Jesus to sit beside him in his glory? Do they think they are better than everyone else? Maybe the others think they should sit beside Jesus. The twelve are not in right-relationship with each other.
Does this sound familiar? It is not unusual for people to want what is best for themselves. We argue over who gets the favourite seat in the car, the bigger slice of pizza, the last cookie. We also want the best praise. We want the people we love to notice us; we want to be the favourite. It can feel good to get honour that someone else does not. We want others to know that we are better.
This happens everywhere, all over the world—in homes, in schools, in governments—everyone wanting the best for themselves, everyone wanting to be better than everyone else.
And Jesus says, ENOUGH.
But it is not so among you
It's not? (James and John must feel a little foolish.)
Jesus shares with them God's dream:
whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.
To be great, Jesus says, you must be a servant; you must take care of others' needs.
To be first, he says, you must be a slave—someone who has nothing except what is given to you.
What kind of dream is this?
To be great, we must take care of others' needs. What if everyone in the whole wide world wants to be great? What if everyone is everyone's else's servant? What would happen to everyone's needs? Would anyone be hungry? Would anyone be thirsty?Would anyone be lonely? Would anyone be unloved?
What kind of dream is this? It is a dream of the Kingdom of God complete.
Right-relationship with each other, right relationship with God. This is God's dream and Jesus is living it:
For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Jesus does not look for glory for himself. Instead, he serves others' needs. How? Jesus gives his life—his body and blood—the bread and wine at the Last Supper. He gives his life on the cross. He says it is a ransom. A ransom is something that is given so that others may have life.
Does that make him great in the Kingdom of GOD? Oh, yes. He is filled with Risen Life. He can never die again. And because he gives his life as a ransom, we may share in his Risen life, too.
Jesus is living the dream. Servant to all. He invites us to share God's dream.