Pentecost XXI Gospel Mark 10:35-45
Last week my 3 year old grandgirl asked me if I was a kid or a grownup?
A grown up I said, with great authority and a clarity of confirmation … and yet I have been reflecting on the question and my answer ever since.
The questions of little ones tell us much of what they see, and what we may have become too grown up to notice. We become blind. The child loves and trusts, a child can ask the outrageous, the questions we might like to ask however lessons of politeness and manners and decorum keep our mouths and hearts shut.
Today’s question of James and John has all the qualities of a child’s question. We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you? They ask. James and John have a love and a trust for Jesus which allows their question to be asked. They can see that Jesus is going to be in glory and they don’t want to be forgotten. They don’t want not to be there. Jesus, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.
What is it you want me to do for you? Answers Jesus. Using his familiar way of answering a question with a question. With Jesus there is no hesitation, embarrassment or concern. Jesus is not going to be comprised, tricked or have his word put into question or doubt, this will not happen no matter the ask, so Jesus asks James and John What is it you want me to do for you?
Their want was for each to be granted to sit one at his right hand and one at his left in his glory. Jesus has another question for them. He asks if they are able? Are they able to be baptised with the baptism he is baptised in, able to drink the cup that he drinks? Are they able to be part of the story of God which includes the pain of crucifixion for the glory of resurrection. And they say yes.
They were able to ask the question because they were blind to all what their answer would hold. Unlike blind Bartimaeus who had the vision to ask to see
these disciples did not see their blindness. Jesus knew all that and more as he lovingly answers them and then waits for them to grow into their answer.
The questions we ask are a signpost of where we are in life. We ask about what we see and want.
Where did I come from? asks the child.
Do you like me? asks the insecure school boy and girl.
Do you love me? asks the young person.
Will you marry me? asks the nervous person.
Why me? asks the dying mother of two young children.
Where did the love go? asks the divorced person.
How much? asks the unemployed person.
Where is home? asks the one with dementia.
Where is God? asks the inmates of Auschwitz.
How can I do this? asks the prisoner in for life.
Today’s gospel is calling us to ask our question, and to live our answer. To be part of our answer. What would be your question to our Lord? What have you seen, and what can you live? Our question could be anything, and some may include …
Why has this happened to me?
Has all of this been for nothing?
Where were you when I needed you?
Why is there so much hatred about love?
Will I be reunited with loved ones in heaven?
Is eternal life mine?
Is the pandemic to do with judgement?
Why do so many hunger while others feast?
Were women priests part of your plan all along?
And what about those changes to the Lord’s prayer?
Will good people enter heaven even though they choose not to believe in you?
Is Hitler in heaven?
And if Jesus were to ask of you What is it you want me to do for you? how would you answer? What is it you want me to do for you?
And in our question let us not be like James and John … who were blind to all whom Jesus is for them, and for us. May we be able to ask our question and able to live the answer, able to live the answer of all our questions. Able to be part of the answer.
And if all that is asked of you, and all the questions of life seem too much and too many, there is a wonderful poem by Rainer Rilke, which may also need to be asked. One I often used with prisoners when their questions were of not being able to live what they could see.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.
Do not seek the answers that cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them, and the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it,
live along some distance day into the answer.
The Lord be with you.