As Jesus Did

Article excerpt

TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, OCTOBER 18, 2009

Is 53:10-11; Ps 33; Heb 4:14-1G; Mk 10:35-45

What would motivate a person to suffer for the sake of another? What could possibly lead someone to put their life in jeopardy or even forfeit their very existence so as to spare another? Several months ago, the captain of a ship seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia offered himself as a hostage so that his crew might be set free. What moved him to such bravery?

C.S. Lewis, who married quite late in life, told literary scholar Nevill Coghill that he was so devastated when his much younger wife contracted cancer and was stricken with unbearable pain that he prayed to be allowed to take on her pain. "You mean," asked Coghill, "that the pain left her, and that you felt it in your own body? .... Yes," said Lewis, "in my legs it was crippling. But it relieved hers" (from Jocelyn Gibb's Light on C.S. Lewis, Harcourt Brace Jovanonich, 1976). What could have prompted such selflessness?

What could have inspired Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest and prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, to offer to die so that another man would be spared? The other man, a husband and father condemned to die a tortuous death in the camp's so-called "starvation bunker," cried out, "My poor wife! My poor children! What will they do?" At that, Kolbe called out to the commandant and asked to replace him in the bunker. That he did and there he died a slow and extremely painful death. Why?

Why, indeed, do so many soldiers at war in so many places of this world continue to risk and even forfeit their lives for the rights and security of their countrymen and women? Every war produces heroes who volunteer for the frontlines or the most treacherous assignments. Who has not heard of the soldiers who throw themselves on grenades or bombs so that others will be shielded from the blast? Why do they do it?

If we are able to understand, at some level, why people like this are moved to risk their safety, their futures and their very lives for the sake of others, then we are a step nearer to understanding the message offered in today's sacred texts.

Together, the prophet we call Deutero-Isaiah, the author of Hebrews and the first evangelist have collaborated to explore the mystery of Jesus' vicarious suffering for the salvation' of sinful humankind. …