Serve one another!

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s gospel Jesus continues to teach the disciples about His impending death and resurrection whilst they are journeying towards Jerusalem. In it, Jesus speaks about ambition and about authentic Christian leadership.

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus freely and knowingly journeys to Jerusalem where he knows what awaits him. On the journey he constantly tries to make the disciples understand that only in death will his ‘glory’ as redeemer of the people be fully revealed. Jesus’ words to his closest disciples seem to be intended to prepare them for the events that will occur in Jerusalem.

Jesus in the gospel reading today is faced with a question of power and the exercise of power when brothers’ James and John the sons of Zebedee put in a request, “Grant us to sit one on your left and one on your right when you come into your Kingdom.” Jesus tells them that it is not in his power to decide who will do what in God’s kingdom and says that whoever seeks power among us should look to serve the others and whoever would seek first place, “must be the slave of all.”

Jesus presents us with a challenge, if we claim to be true followers of Christ then we are not to look for rewards in terms of position, power and status in life, instead we follow the example of Jesus the Messiah and Saviour who came as a servant, the slave of all. To be a servant, Jesus gave his life for others by dying on the cross.

James and John’s thirst for ambition stirred up resentment and indignation among the disciples. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with ambition which is often used for the greater good and not just for personal gain. Most people use ambition to better themselves and their surroundings, and not all ambition is wrong. As parents we are proud of our children, of our work of our accomplishments either physical or intellectual. However, the Scriptures point out that selfish ambition is sinful. In James’ letter we find “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth…. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3: 14-16). 

Jesus teaches the disciples the importance of service and sacrifice and he rejected leadership based on power. Jesus saw himself on the cross as the primary model for “servant leadership.” He was preparing the Twelve for their leadership roles in the emerging Christian community. We too as baptised Christians are called to be ambitious to grow in holiness, and to be ambitious for the Kingdom of God; for the spread of the Gospel message within our daily lives and within our families which results in the growth of Christ’s Kingdom on earth. We might take this opportunity to consider our own models of authority. On whose example do I model my own leadership?  

A reading from the Gospel of Mark (Mk 10: 35-45)

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you  to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.”  Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Read the Gospel story so that you are familiar with it.
  2. Reflect on what the Gospel story is saying to you. Which points would you highlight and why?
  3. Jesus challenged the disciples to be countercultural. To be a follower of Christ is often considered as countercultural even in our own society today. Family life involves compromise and cooperation between each other. Think about how you respond and react to certain power struggles within your family, how are they resolved? Many situations although unavoidable can be resolved by using Jesus’ example of “servant leadership.” 
  4. Pray this week together as a family the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, with your family about Jesus’ unique message to his disciples about how they are to exercise authority. 
  5. Together with your family find the right time to read this gospel. The environment helps, so before you start, prepare:
    i. The Bible reading from St Mark (Mk 10: 35-45)
    ii. A candle
    iii. Cover the table with a green clot
    iv. A computer/laptop with the reading and clips
  6. Go through the steps with your children (2 age groups are being suggested)
  7. Feel free to adapt to your situation
  8. Be creative 😊
  9. Go to the Prayer Corner section to continue praying as a family

In today’s Gospel we hear the brothers James and John asking Jesus for a favour. They wanted to sit in the places of honour next to Jesus when He sits on His glorious throne. Yet, Jesus’ answer is not what they expected. He tells them that the Kingdom of God is about service not rewards.

  • The people who are really great are those who serve others.
  • Jesus is the best example as he helped people all His life, and then He died on the cross so that everyone has the chance to go to Heaven.
  • Helping Hand Certificate (printout)
  • Colours, pencil 
  • Stickers to decorate

As you probably know whenever there is a contest between people such as a race or a competition, the person who finishes first is the winner and usually they are presented with a prize or a ribbon or a certificate or even a trophy. It feels good to be a winner and even better to be rewarded for all your hard work. Everyone will know that you have done something special. Furthermore, Jesus teaches us that the one who wants to be great must be the servant of all.

In today’s gospel brothers James and John asked Jesus to do them a favour, they wanted a place of honour. “When you are seated on your glorious throne, we want to sit one on your right and one on your left.” Jesus answered “You don’t know what you are asking. Are you willing to suffer as I am going to suffer?” They both said “Yes, we are able.” But the answer that Jesus gave them was not what they were expecting to hear. Jesus said “You may be able to suffer as I will suffer. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.” No doubt they were disappointed with this answer. Jesus then goes on to teach his disciples what it takes to be great in God’s Kingdom, he says that those who wish to be first in God’s Kingdom must be the servants of others. It is not about recognition, about coming first, or being the best and getting praise and honour, it’s about service to others and how we help each other which is important. To see what this means, all you have to do is look at the life that Jesus lived. He came not to be served, but to serve, and he gave his life so that we could have the gift of eternal life with Him in Heaven. That is the greatest prize anyone could have.  

To remind yourself of what you have learnt in today’s gospel think of 3 ways in which you may be of service to others this week. Maybe you can be of help at home or with your friends or grandparents. Try to be creative and make sure it is something which you are able to do on your own. If you print the “Helping Hands Certificate” you can write down your ideas and tick each one when you do it. You can decorate it with stickers, and ask your parents to sign when you have completed the tasks. Listen to the song; “Helping Hands.”

Sign of the cross.

Dear Jesus, you died on the cross to save us. Thank you for loving us so much. Help us to show our love for you in return by being willing to offer our help to others, even if it means putting the needs of others before our own needs. Help us to live a life of service to others. Amen.

Many times, achievement is recognized through prizes, awards, trophies and other symbols of honour. In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches us that greatness in the Kingdom of God will be achieved through sacrifice and loving service.

  • Jesus tells us that the people who are really great are those who serve others.
  • Jesus is the Messiah and Saviour who came to serve. We see this in the way he lived his life and through his death on the cross and through his resurrection.
  • Printout of James and John facts
  • Poster sized craft card
  • Scissors, glue and pencil colours

Jesus said that whoever wishes to be the greatest must be the servant of all. What did he mean by this? In today’s gospel reading Jesus tells us that to be great in God’s Kingdom we must be like a servant. This is rather strange because usually when we achieve something great like winning a race or getting full marks in an exam we get a reward such as a prize or a trophy as a reward for our efforts.

One day brothers James and John ask Jesus for a favour. They want to have the place of honour in His Glorious Kingdom, a seat at Jesus’ side. One on the left and one on the right. Jesus says that he cannot grant them these places. They will be given by God to those who suffer as Jesus is about to suffer. He was talking about His own death on the Cross which was going to happen in the future. 

No doubt James and John were disappointed with this answer, and when the other disciples heard about it they were upset with the brothers. Jesus then explains to them all, that to be a good leader you must be willing to serve others. That those who want to be first in Gods Kingdom must be the servants of others. We know that Jesus is our King, but he is not like any other king. It is true that he is very important but he did not come to sit on a throne and to hand out orders to every one or have a crown of gold on his head. He was not born in a palace but in a stable and his crown was made of thorns, he is the perfect example of a “servant king”. Jesus lived his whole life serving others, helping people who were sick, he suffered death on a cross for the sake of others, for you and for me. By his actions Jesus taught us that to be a great leader we must treat others with respect, be kind and polite even to those who might be unkind to us. We can follow Jesus’ example by serving and helping others whilst at home and at school, and without expecting anything in return. We help because we want to do something for Jesus who has done so much for us.

If you would like to know more about the disciples James and John you can print out the fact pages. It would also be fun to cut out each fact and stick them onto a large craft card to make a poster. Be creative and give it a title and decorate it with stickers or small drawings such as flowers or stars. Also listen to this song; “Twelve Disciples.

Sign of the Cross

Dear Jesus, help us to reach out when we see people who need our help. Open our hearts so that we may work together to make the world a fairer place for all people because we are all God’s Children and are created in His image and likeness. Amen

1. According to today's Gospel, two among the apostles asked Jesus to sit one on his right and on his left, when he enters his glory. Who were they?

Correct! Wrong!

2. Jesus asked them a question. He asked them if they were willing to drink from the cup he was going to drink from, that is, if they were willing to suffer like him. What did they answer?

Correct! Wrong!

3. What did the other apostles do when they heard the request of two of their peers to Jesus?

Correct! Wrong!

4. Jesus answered and said to all the apostles that whoever wants to be first among them must be ...

Correct! Wrong!

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.