Companions on the Journey

by Susanna Mak
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 53:10 - 11

Hebrews 4:14 - 16

Mark 10:35 - 45

What does an authentic relationship look like? The descriptions may vary, but ultimately, at its heart is love that embodies a genuine giving and receiving. Jean Vanier writes,

"Loving someone does not simply mean doing things for them; it is much more profound. To love someone is to show to them their beauty, their worth and their importance; it is to understand them, understand their cries and their body language; it is to rejoice in their presence, spend time in their company and communicate with them. To love is to live a heart-to-heart relationship with another, giving to and receiving from each other."

Vanier, Jean. Seeing Beyond Depression, qtd from “Daily Thoughts From Jean Vanier”, L’Arche Newsletters, June 24, 2011, Saving Souls For God’s Kingdom.

This week’s readings reveal the transformative power of an authentic relationship with God. An authentic relationship implies companionship; a journeying through hills and valleys. Most importantly, there is an indelible trust between the two parties. As explained in the Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews and Mark’s Gospel, Christ is not our fair-weather buddy who only laughs but does not cry with us. In fact, He fully understands all the glory and pitfalls of our human condition; He is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses”, has “been tested as we are”, bears our “iniquities”, and freely “give[s] his life as a ransom for many” (Heb 4:15, Is 53:11, Mk 10:45). Indeed, Jesus is our true companion on the journey.

Christ, who had breathed, eaten, taught, and walked among creation, had revealed to us, and continues to do so, our “beauty”, “worth”, and “importance” through his words and deeds (Vanier). We are so precious to him that he gives up his life for us! Therefore, with the certainty that Christ is our constant companion on the journey, we are able to “hold fast to our confession” and “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:14,16). Christ, our teacher, friend, and brother reveals a vision of genuine relationships through his own actions; instead of acting like the “great ones” and “tyrants” who lead only with self-interest and indifference, he advises that “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all” (Mk 10:43-44). Indeed, Jesus not only walks with his disciples but He also washes their feet! Having an authentic relationship with God implies a genuine receiving of God’s love and words, as well as a genuine giving of ourselves to God and each other. In other words, Christ invites us to lead a counter-cultural way of life: to “drink the cup” that He drinks; “be baptized with the baptism” that He is baptized with, and be “servant” and “slave of all” (Mk 10:39, 43-44).

Finally, having an authentic relationship with our loving God often means trusting Him, one hundred and ten percent, even during turbulent times. As the Psalmist proclaims, “let your steadfast love be upon us, Lord, even as we hope in you” (Ps 33:22). The same hope and faith can be observed in Isaiah’s suffering servant, “Out of his anguish he shall see light” and willingly suffers so that “the will of the Lord shall prosper” (is 53:10-11).

Indeed, an authentic relationship with God, and each other, has the potency of completely transforming us from the inside out! As Vanier reflects, love is more than simply “doing something” for others; it is “to live a heart-to-heart relationship with another, giving to and receiving from each other”. Christ comes to offer his heart to us first so that we may have the courage to journey with him and let “the will of the Lord [...] prosper” (Is 53:10).