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29th Sunday

Before the killer floods became headline, the news fed us with the scenario of politicians out to get each other’s throats. We have what we call “the quarrel of thieves” – people in authority accusing each other of unspeakable crimes. One day, this senator takes the floor for his privilege speech, destroying the reputation of a public figure. The next day, another senator takes the stand to lambast the previous day’s exposè. Those who have promised to work for the welfare of the nation are entangled in the shameful cycle revealing each other’s faults.

The gospel begins with a request of the disciples for power. James and John, approach Jesus to ask for the right and left seats closest to Jesus’ throne in the Kingdom. The Lord directs the conversation to his cup of suffering, but refuses to give a pointed answer to the request for recognition and honor. If only the two disciples knew that in the end, the right and left places on the throne of Jesus, the cross, would go to convicted thieves and criminals!

After riches or money, the second great idol of the world in our time is power. Today, the gospel judges power. In itself, power is not evil. Even God himself, in the Bible, is majestic and powerful. He is all-powerful. All power belongs to him. The problem starts when power is shared with human beings, for then enters the tendency for abuse and misuse of power.

But we must be careful not to point our fingers only on politicians and their greed for power. This gospel message is for all of us. Workers in the church, parents of families, people in the private sector – we are all prone to the lure of power.

That is why it is essential to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the first, yet he made himself the last; he worked for our redemption but did not wait for appreciation. He was faithful in his role as servant. His power lies in his service. This is Jesus’ solution to the ambition of James and John. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
 whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”

Today we remember in our Mass the missionaries scattered all over the world, desiring only to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray for them as they give up worldly powers to embrace the suffering peoples everywhere. Missionaries go through a lot of pains in order to show faithful service. They are kidnapped or murdered; and they get sick and alienated from their roots. Recently, a missionary priest was kidnapped by Muslim insurgents, while the pope canonized St. Damian, a missionary to Hawaii, who became a leper while serving the lepers.

Let us pray to the Lord to instill in us not a desire for power but a passion for service. May our missionary priests, sisters and lay people challenge and inspire the way we live.