Ordinary 29

The Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2018 – Cycle B
Isaiah 5:10-11; Psalm 33; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45

Step forward, Tin Man!
You dare to come to me for a heart, do you?
You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk.

And you, Scarecrow, have the effrontery to ask for a brain?
You billowing bale of bovine fodder!

And you Lion!

Can you hear the clanking of the Tin Man and see in your mind’s eye the bowlegged movements of the Scarecrow as the Lion rises to a faint?

And why not?  The Great and Powerful Oz is no wizard.  Oz is a bully.  He hides behind billows of smoke and jets of fire as he bellows out his insults.  Like many people in positions of power and authority, the Wizard runs rough shod over our band of seekers.  Fear and intimidation are the Wizard’s weapons.  But weapons to what purpose?  …to hide behind as all bullies must?  …to protect power and authority?   …to manipulate other people?  But first, you must prove yourselves worthy by performing a very small task. Bring me the broomstick of the Witch of the West.

Fear and intimidation are used by people to keep their positions of power.  We immediately think of dictators but it can also be our boss, a sports coach, a college professor or a parent or sibling in our families.  Jesus teaches that the use of fear and intimidation cannot characterize members of the Christian community.  We are to serve each other.

Have you ever considered that that teaching and example began within the eternal God?  The moment God considered being our servant and slave, which we commemorate at the Feast of Christmas, fear was to be banished from all relationships.  In the Great and Powerful God freely choosing to become a vulnerable human being, God also chose to suffer and die for us.

Consider the words and phrases about God in Jesus throughout the today’s passages:  “because of his affliction”  “through his suffering”  “their guilt he shall bear”  “able to sympathize with our weaknesses”  “tested in every way”  “to give his life as a ransom”.

The small and meek Dorothy confronted the fear mongering Wizard: You ought to be ashamed of yourself frightening him like that, when he came to you for help!  She was right.  They all had come to the Wizard for help.  They did not deserve his insults and bellowing and neither do we.

We have every reason to approach God in fear and trembling.  Yet God doesn’t seem to want that.

When we approach our God we do so standing with Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest, at our side.  The eternal God who bore the fullness of our humanity, our afflictions, weaknesses, sufferings, and guilt, except did not sin.  This Jesus, this servant – slave God, invites us into the presence of the Eternal Father; into a presence marked not by fear and intimidation because of our sins, many though they are, but beyond fear “to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help”.

And what is mercy?  Is it not understanding?  And through Jesus, God understands his sons and daughters.  In justice our sin is condemned but in Jesus we are ransomed, redeemed.

To find grace for timely help.  Wasn’t help what Dorothy and her friends were looking for?  Isn’t help what we are looking for each time we pray and approach God?

Understanding and help not fear and intimidation.  This is the God Jesus stands before interceding for his sisters and brothers.  This is the God before whom we stand with Jesus, side by side.

How do you approach God?  …in fear or in confidence?

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