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To Be Great, Serve | Breaking Open the Word at Home

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

In the readings for Sunday, Oct. 21, Jesus reminds us that if we want to be great and have authority, we have to become a servant.

by Jen Schlameuss-Perry


Isaiah 53:10-11

Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.

Psalm 33
Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Hebrews 4:14-16
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Mark 10:35-45
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. 

You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:

Scriptures for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B


What does it really mean to be baptized? Jesus tells us it’s serious business. The early Church knew this, and that’s why they had a major process to prepare for baptism, and they baptized adults who knew what they were getting themselves into.

Our Gospel makes it very clear that it’s a baptism of service; one of sacrifice — possibly even the sacrifice of our lives. Jesus asks James and John if they are prepared to accept that baptism, a baptism of danger, when they ask him to give them places of honor in heaven. He tells them that they will, in fact, experience what Jesus will experience. (Eventually, they were killed for the faith, too.) Jesus reminds them, and us, that authority in Christianity isn’t supposed to be like civil authority which is often abused. For us, authority means service like Jesus served. In fact, the authority of our teaching and preaching is rooted in service — if  the world doesn’t see us serving others, our words have no authority with them.

The first reading is a prophecy of what Jesus would go through for us in his passion. He gave everything and experienced true suffering for our salvation. The second reading reminds us that because of his suffering, when we approach Jesus in prayer when we are suffering, we approach someone who knows what we are feeling — who can “sympathize with our weakness.” We’re not asked to make sacrifices that God hasn’t felt, and we’re not asked to do it alone. When we unite our suffering to Jesus’, he takes ours and, like his, makes it into life-giving change.


Do you know that Jesus understands all of your feelings? Can that help to cheer you up when you’re sad?


Jesus connects authority with service. How does it make you feel to see people in authority not serving others? What do you think of those who have authority and abuse it? Who is the best leader you know? What makes them so?


What implications or consequences does your baptism have for your life? What have you had to sacrifice or die to in order to live your baptism fully? How does your baptism challenge you to serve others, especially the poor and vulnerable?

Bonus Challenge

Make a list of good leadership skills. What are the most valuable characteristics of a leader? What characteristics do you not want to see in your leaders? 

A little lectio

The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.

A little Bible study

Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:

  • During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
  • Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
  • Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
  • Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
  • If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)

For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.

The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”

Follow Jerry Windley-Daoust:

Publisher, Gracewatch Media

Jerry Windley-Daoust is a writer, editor, and father of five. He writes essays and stories at Windhovering and is the show-runner for Gracewatch Media, a small Catholic publisher. You can follow his latest publishing projects at gracewatch.org.

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