Homilies by Father Jaimon Dominic » Notes » Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2018

  • Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2018

    Posted by Mary Wilson October 21, 2018 - 475 views - 0 comments - 0 likes


    Alexander Woolcott, one of the most famous alumni of Hamilton College, New York, was asked to give a major address at the college’s centennial celebration. Woolcott gave a memorable speech which began with these words: “I send my greetings today to all my fellow alumni of Hamilton College, scattered all over the world. Some of you are successes, and some of you are failures – only God knows which are which!” This is a wonderful reminder to us that in our measurement of success and failure, “God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are our ways God’s ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways, and God’s thoughts than our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). This is the lesson that the overambitious disciples, James and John, are about to learn in today’s gospel story.

    If there is one thing we know for sure about predestination it is this: God created everyone for success. God did not create anyone for failure. But what do success and failure mean? For most people, as for James and John, success means to be head of the pack. To succeed means to excel. Success is measured by comparing one’s achievements against the achievements of one’s “competitors.” That is why James and John go to Jesus and ask not that they be granted a place in his kingdom but that they be granted “to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37). “You do not know what you are asking,” Jesus says to them (verse 38), and then proceeds to teach them a new understanding of success.

    For Jesus success means people realizing and fulfilling God’s dream for them. Jesus tells us, contrary to popular thinking, that anybody cannot be anything. Before people come into this world, divine providence has already crafted a dream for each person to live out. We do not come into life to write our own job description, we come with a divine job description in our hands and with the physical and mental traits necessary to get the job done. To our wonder, you can’t find two people same in the past, in present and in future. That is what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is all about. God needed a singular job to be done, that of being the mother of His incarnate Son, and He created a woman fully prepared and equipped specifically to do the job. No other woman before or after Mary could have become the mother of God out of her own personal effort or ambition. This is why Jesus tells James and John that, “to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared” (verse 40).

    Like James and John many a times we also place our request to Jesus in prayer. The response to this requests mostly met with mixed reaction. Some requests are granted as it is, some are treated with changes and others are completely disregarded. Have you anytime thought that why some prayers are granted and others not? Learning a lesson from today’s gospel we may find an answer to this curious question. I may bring an example from my life. I loved volleyball game and was rather a good player during my college days. As a possessed man with this game I never paid much attention to my studies. My everyday prayer goes like this: “Good Lord, grant me one more foot height to make me 6.7 feet tall, so I may play well and be hero among my friends”. one day, My years of this prayer was granted; while having the game fell down and broke my angle, could not walk for one month , instead of having one more foot height I gained twenty pounds weight. That was the end of ‘my dream’ of a volleyball player.   Dear friends, what is reflected here is what happened to my prayer. As I mentioned earlier that God has a dream for everyone, predestination. Our prayer would be answered only in so far as by realizing the dream of God for us and make petitions towards that dream, because God wants us to be successors.  When I realized the dream of God for me, to be priest, all my prayers were granted by God in his time and wisdom. 

    Does this mean that God has already determined, from the word go, the outcome of our earthly existence? No. God has an intended destination for which He created you and me. This is predestination. But whether you and I attain this destination or not depends on how we cooperate with God’s grace. To say that whatever people are or do in life is what God created them to be and do is determinism. The Bible teaches predestination (God has something in mind for creating you and me) but does not teach determinism (whatever we are or do is what God has predestined for us). God gives us free will to cooperate with divine grace or not. That is why, even though God predestined Mary to be the mother of our Savior, when the time came for her to accomplish this mission, God sent an angel to seek her cooperation. She is a perfect example of success because she courageously said yes to the word of God detailing to her what Providence has in store for her.

    James and John, on the other hand, represent the New Age, anyone-could-be-anything mentality, characteristic of our times. This way of seeing things encourages uncontrolled ambition, rivalry and unhealthy competition among people, which we call the rat race. But the trouble with the rat race is that, even if you win, you are still a ‘rat’. The new vision of success that Jesus teaches, on the contrary, encourages mutual cooperation and the contentment of realizing that we can all be successful because God has created every one of us for something different. God has enough dreams to go round, a different dream for everyone, a different success for everyone. Our ambition in life should be to discover and live God’s dream for us. Therein lies our true success. But to compete and struggle with one another over the same dreams – that is failure.

    photo via CCSearch/University of the Fraser Valley