|Date:||October 17-18, 2015 Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B|
The author of Mark's Gospel wrote it for two primary purposes, to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, and to describe what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Deacon Pat Stokely who has been leading our collaborative staff training quipped that Mark's Gospel could be subtitled "Clueless in Galilee". He was referring, of course, to the disciples who are depicted especially harshly in Mark's Gospel as just not getting who Jesus is. Today we hear the third story in Mark of the disciples' actions after Jesus tells them that he is going to be arrested, mocked, killed and then rise after three days. The first time, Peter tries to contradict Jesus. The second time, which we heard a few weeks ago, they start arguing who is the greatest among them, and this third time, we have the "Sons of Thunder", John and James trying to lobby Jesus for the top positions in his coming kingdom. And then the other ten are indignant that they didn't think of that first.
Jesus talks, first to John and James, and then to all the disciples about something we as Catholics don't always hear about. Jesus describes for them the fruits of being a disciple. It is not enough just to follow him around, listen to his teachings, and witness his actions. To be a disciple means to live out that call in a very concrete way. And since we know the rest of the story, we know that they all do bear much fruit, including all of us gathered here today. But before we get too critical of the disciples on that road up to Jerusalem, we might ask ourselves: What is the fruit of our discipleship?
We had a beautiful wedding here last Saturday and this Sunday afternoon we will celebrate another one. I think most of us can identify the fruit of the sacrament of Marriage. We would think it absurd for a couple to come here before God and their family and friends, exchange their marriage vows, and then go off in separate directions for the rest of their lives. I certainly would think it absurd if the eight men in my diaconate ordination class had gone through those 5 years of investigation, discernment, formation, prayer, and service leading to the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and then just went back to living the way we did before.
Why don't we think it absurd that an overwhelming majority of the young men and women who come here to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation do exactly that: they walk away and never bear any fruit of that sacrament. Or that for most of us, it is really hard to see the fruit of our baptism, our call to be a disciple. What about the fruits of receiving the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of Eucharist? If what we Catholics believe is true about baptism, and confirmation, and Eucharist really is true, shouldn't we be able to see the fruits of those sacraments?
Few of us are called to bear the fruit of martyrdom that all but one of those first disciples did; but all of us are called to bear the fruit of serving others. And just so that doesn't get left hanging out there as a vague description, we start by serving one another in our families and here in this community already gathered. We are called to build up this part of the body of Christ by serving one another as altar servers, as musicians, as ushers, as lectors and extraordinary ministers of communion, and so many other simple ways like showing up early for Mass as a family and greeting those who are coming in. These are concrete expressions of the fruit of our sacraments of initiation.
Let us drink the cup that Jesus drank, and live out the baptism his baptism has called us to; then we too will bear much fruit in bringing the Kingdom of God to life.