Meditations on today’s Readings
by Fr Charles FSDM
The readings in today’s Mass, in the Ordinary Form for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time cut to the very heart of what the Fraternity is all about.
In his letter to the Hebrews, St Paul tells us that we have a great high priest, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is not unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, and He has been tempted as we are. St Paul urges us to draw near to the throne of grace so that we can receive God’s infinite mercy and find grace to help in time of need and to approach with confidence.
But why should be we confident? It is simple. Jesus was tested as we are tested; He knows and understands what we go through in our lives, good and not so good. He is always with us, pouring out the infinite mercy of His grace even when we think that He has no more to give. But that is when we need His grace the most, and when He gives us His grace the most.
St Paul tells us that God sits on a Throne of Grace. Not a throne of condemnation. God is not an angry old man throwing around bolts of lightning and flaming swords; He offers love and mercy, not harsh punishments and impossible demands. He is a loving God, He knows all our weaknesses and strengths; and is moved by them. He made us in His own image and likeness; if He did not love us He would not have sent His only Son to die on the Cross for our salvation. Every day, Holy Priests all over the world offer the Sacrifice of Calvary in the Mass, remembering God’s infinite love, grace and mercy.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other forms of Eucharistic Liturgical Worship are at the heart of the spirituality and apostolate of the Fraternity. Our members live with the conviction that the entire effectiveness of our apostolate flows from the Sacrifice of Our blessed Lord.
Jesus tells us here that no one person is greater than another. Now in the first part of today’s Gospel, James and John asked Jesus to grant them their places in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus then reminds them that they don’t know what they are asking of Him: can they drink of the chalice that He drinks of? He knows quite well what is to happen to him during the next few days. The chalice of which He speaks will be the agonies He endures during the last hours of His earthly life – during the Agony in the Garden, He implores His Father : “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee: remove this chalice from me; but not what I will but what thou wilt”. Do James and John know what they are asking? Very unlikely, but they have the faith to be able to say that they are able, and Jesus tells them that they will drink of the same chalice. By doing this have they, unwittingly, signed their own death warrants? Very likely they had, but it shows that they understood what Jesus had previously told them about his betrayal, mocking, scourging and crucifixion. They understood that a place in Heaven cannot be granted, other than to those for whom it has been prepared. And for whom? Jesus does not say, but I think we can work that out for ourselves.
Now we cut to the chase. On hearing about this conversation, the other Ten Disciples get rather annoyed with James and John. But Jesus quite swiftly rebukes them: “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be servant of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Our Fraternity is faithful to this instruction from Our Blessed Lord. The Fraternity is built on the principle of Priestly Brotherhood; our Ordinary will serve his Brother Priests, providing spiritual inspiration, encouragement and example as primus inter pares – first among equals; not “lording it” over anyone, but as our servant.