A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 “You are those who have continued with me in my trials; 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Revised Standard Version)
See also: Matthew 19:28, 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45
Based on the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday (Sixth Sunday of Heesnag), the following are suggested themes for sermon topics:
It’s that time of year when many of us look back on the past twelve months and evaluate our accomplishments, our financial situation, our growth and maturity, and where we are in life compared to where we expect ourselves to be. Based on our evaluation, we create New Year “Resolutions” which are meant to change or better our circumstances, health, or vocations. Never mind that these resolutions typically last until the end of January, from what paradigm are these resolutions conceived? How do we understand success and betterment?
During the Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus predicts His pending suffering and death. Following the meal and His further prediction of being betrayed by one of His own, the disciples erupt into an argument about who is the greatest. How often, in the midst of the holiest moments, do we sink into self-preservation, ego, and control? Jesus responds by contrasting the heathen (Gentile) version of leadership and power to that of the Kingdom of God. Jesus witnesses with His life what it means to be great. The key is to serve, to become less, and this is the model for creating resolutions for Christian living.
Society, culture, and media (movies, television shows, news) inform and influence us as to how the world, our lives, should be fixed or bettered, but the Cross, which is what Jesus predicted before the disciples’ argument, is the real cure for healing the world, including us, of its severe brokenness. We can keep our typical New Year resolutions. We should do our best at our vocations to get ahead, we should take care of the bodies given to us by God, and we should budget our finances wisely. But let’s not forget the model given to us by Jesus as He responds to His disciples arguing about getting ahead, accomplishing, and being the greatest. The Cross: humility, love, sacrifice, and a servant’s heart.
Just as the New Year, for us, is an annual turning point in our lives, the event that is about to take place, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is the turning point of all history, of eternity! Again, the Cross is the paradigm from which we, as Christians, make daily, even momentarily resolutions for our lives. As the Church, what are we resolving to do with our time? Is the Cross the center of everything we say and do? Are we preparing ourselves, investing effort, and making resolutions to live more simply, to have less, to be less? To feed those in need, to complain less, to give more, to gossip less, to forgive more, to be patient with everyone, and to put others before ourselves?
St. John Chrysostom gives us a lesson from the life and person of Jesus of how becoming less leads to great accomplishment. He writes, “For being King of powers above, he was willing to become man and submitted himself to be despised and despitefully treated. And not even with this lowliness was he satisfied, but he even came to die.” He goes on to say,
You see how his humbling of himself did not make him have less but produced countless benefits, countless deeds of virtue, and made his glory shine forth with greater brightness. Yet, when he humbled himself, he produced such great good, increased his household, and extended his kingdom.
The Kingdom of God turns our ideas of greatness and notions of success upside down. In His Kingdom, with the Cross at the center, the master becomes the servant, and the path of the servant is the path to greatness, yeranootyoon – a blessed and blissful life (see The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10). How can applying Jesus’ words about leadership and service alter our resolutions as a parish? In our family, at work, in relationships, and with our material possessions? As a worshipping community, as we pray in our Badarak, let’s begin this New Year with a resolution to “Give thanks to the Lord with the whole heart” (Kohatsarook uzDyarneh polorov surdeev).