(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Mass-Blog-for-the-29th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-time-2021.mp3)
Last week we talked about first responders who sacrifice their lives in service. For that they receive humanity’s undying adulation. But there are some who wish to achieve such glory without realizing the price. A few of these types accompanied Jesus when he walked among us. Such glory hoarding actually grew more scandalous as centuries passed, and in the 21st it finally earned a name: “Stolen Valor.”
In 2013 Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act which makes it a crime for anyone to benefit from service never served. The Act doesn’t say anything about the greatest benefit of all—salvation—but that’s what some of Jesus’ own disciples hoped to attain, along with all the accompanying promises it brings.
Jesus knew humanity’s motivations and temptations because he himself was tempted as he prepared for his ministry. In Sunday’s second reading (Heb 4:14-16), Paul tells the Hebrews Jesus was like us in every way except one.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.
So, since Jesus was like us, was he surprised when James and John—two of his own disciples—sought the same glory the rich man in last Sunday’s gospel reading sought—a place of honor with him in Paradise? As this Sunday’s gospel reading indicates (Mk 10:35-45), Jesus was prepared to ask them the pivotal question every first responder must ask themselves: Are you willing to pay the price?
Sure we are, they responded. But their ten fellow disciples had something to say about that, and it wasn’t very kind. Jesus had to break up their little spat with a refresher course in their unique service profession:
“Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
What Jesus and all dedicated first-responders teach us is that those who serve don’t do it for the glory. Their honor blinds them to any value in that. They’re responding to an irresistible call. That kind of valor is theft-proof.