As we heard in last week’s Gospel, being a Christian means embracing suffering—not seeking it out or relishing it—but seeing in it value and purpose when it comes our way.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
This Sunday, we’re reading the Scriptures for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B. (You can get the readings at the USCCB website.)
In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah shows us the suffering servant of God. He would know this figure personally, as most of the prophets were rejected, abused and killed. When we experience suffering in our lives, we are comforted by a God who experienced suffering first hand—Jesus. There is no pain, no sadness, no disappointment that Jesus doesn’t understand. And, his suffering brings meaning to ours. He is the High Priest—the sacrifice of His suffering means salvation for us all. Our suffering can bring healing to others, too.
In the Gospel, James and John think it a good idea to ask Jesus for places of honor when he comes into his glory. Jesus responds that they don’t know what they’re asking for—that kind of honor comes with a price. He does not want us to think of our personal glory, our status, our honor. He wants us to lift up one another instead. We will have authority—serious authority—but it’s only useful if we use it for the service of others. In fact, if we try to “lord it over” others and “make our authority felt,” we forfeit it. Jesus gave everything up for us and we have to do the same for one another.
Break Open the Word with Your Family
Did you know that Jesus is just like us except that He never sinned? That means that he understands everything you could possibly go through. How does it make you feel to know that God, the one who takes care of you the best, understands how you feel? Do you think that would make God better at taking care of you than if he didn’t? How does your experience of sadness or disappointment help you to cheer other people up?
“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.” The thought of making yourself the servant of all (people you like and people you don’t) is foreign in our society. Have you ever met anyone who has made themselves a servant to others? What impression did their actions make on you? Do you think that being this “servant” means losing your self-respect or dignity? How can you be servant and be dignified?
For some, suffering can crush and cause despair. For others, it can make stronger and more compassionate. What role has suffering had in shaping who you are? Are you able to find meaning in some of the bad things that happened? Are you able to find gratitude?
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.”