29th Sunday of Year B

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WCCO – CBS Minnesota (2:54)Dr. Katie Holter says narcissism is a personality trait with characteristics including arrogance, superficiality and needing constant admiration, Liz Collin reports (2:54). WCCO 4 News At 10 – July 29, 2019

Leadership as Sacrificial Service Done for Others

Today’s Scripture readings describe leadership as the sacrificial service done for others and offer Jesus as the best example. They also explain the servant leadership of Jesus, pinpointing service and sacrifice as the criteria of greatness in Christ’s Kingdom.

Opening Illustration

The conventional wisdom is that every homily should begin with a story to capture the congregation’s attention and to introduce the theme. 

Sir, I am a Corporal!

During the American Revolution, a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers who were busy pulling out a horse carriage stuck in deep mud. Their officer was shouting instructions to them while making no attempt to help. The stranger who witnessed the scene asked the officer why he wasn’t helping. With great anger and dignity, the officer replied, “Sir, I am a Corporal!” The stranger dismounted from his horse and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers himself. When the job was completed, he turned to the corporal and said, “Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and don’t have enough men to do it, inform your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again.” Too late, the proud Corporal recognized General Washington.

Washington understood that those who aspire to greatness or rank first among others must serve the needs of all. America’s first president found himself in a situation that invited him to demonstrate servant leadership. Where did Washington learn such leadership skills? I have no doubt he learned them here, in these words of Jesus: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” The young corporal had these words modeled for him by the man at the top. Jesus’ disciples, likewise, receive from their leader a picture of servanthood.


Operation Omega

We should be the last to leave the side of a sick bed.
We should be the last to let a grieving spouse sit alone.
We should be the last to write off the children whose parents have failed them or thrown them away.
We should be the last to ignore the homeless camped out along our streets.
We should be the last to allow hunger to gnaw at the bellies of our neighbors.
We should be the last to shrug our shoulders at ongoing environmental degradation.
We should be the last to let despair grind down the powerless.
We should be the last to condone cruelty of any kind, to any living thing.
We should be the last to let human hatred triumph over Divine love.

Here are some suggestions of how you’d conduct Operation Omega:

  1. 1Purposely let others get in line before you.
  2. Try to be the last in line. And pray for those who seem most hurried and stressed because they’re not first in line.
  3. If someone in back of you at the check-out line has fewer items than you do, or even if they don’t but seem in a hurry, let them go in front of you.
  4. Let other cars “in” when they need an assist.
  5. Measure your success at sporting events not by how many points you can score, but how many assists you can generate.

The Narcissism Epidemic…Living in an age of entitlement

Perhaps you have heard of the ancient Greek legend of Narcissus.  He was supposedly the son of a river god.  A seer had told his mother that her son must never see his reflection if he were to mature into manhood.  For that reason, everything that threw off an image, such as metal, was removed from her son’s grasp.  But one day Narcissus found a spring that formed a pool filled with crystal-clear water.  As he stooped down to take a drink from the pool, he saw his reflection on the surface of the pool.  He fell desperately in love with himself, and seeking to embrace himself, he fell into the water and he drowned.

We don’t speak much anymore of the legend of Narcissus.  We do, however, use his name to describe those who are hopelessly self-centered and self-absorbed.  In fact, narcissism is now identified and catalogued as an official personality disorder by the medical profession. In a broader sense, we use the name to describe one of the great maladies of our 21st century American culture.  Ours, in many ways, is a narcissistic culture.  We live in an age of entitlement.

There’s a book written on the subject, The Narcissism Epidemic…Living in an Age of Entitlement. The authors give us a few examples of how our culture has turned in on itself. They write, five times as many Americans undergo plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures as did ten years ago, and ordinary people hire fake paparazzi to follow them around to make them look famous.  High school students physically attack classmates and post YouTube videos of the beatings to get attention.  And for the past several years, Americans have been buying McMansions and expensive cars on credit they can’t afford.”

None of this, of course, should surprise us.  Consider the contrast set before us this morning in the Gospel reading from Mark 10.  James and John versus Jesus–selfish ambition versus self-sacrifice; wanting to be a lord over others versus being Lord of all, and yet, desiring only to serve.  These are two completely different ways of life, two opposing mindsets, two contradictory purposes, even, for life itself. (Rev. Alan Taylor).

Click on chevron banners for additional insights into this week’s scripture in order to relate it to the lives of your parishioners.

First Reading Remarks

The first reading is a Messianic prophecy taken from the Fourth Servant Song in the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It tells how the promised Messiah will save mankind by dying in atonement for our sins. Jesus has done this out of love for us, becoming  the Suffering Servant crucified as an offering for sininterceding for us and taking our punishment on Himself.


Additional insights on the First Reading from Fr. Tony

The first reading about the “Suffering Servant” prepares us to hear today’s Gospel teaching (Mark 10:35-45), on ambition versus humility. Jesus predicts, for the third time, that the Messianic mission would be accomplished by the Messiah’s  suffering, dying and rising, taking on the sins of all mankind to set us free. The concluding words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, “For the Son of Man  did not come to be served but to serve and to give giving His life as a ransom for many,” refer to the Messianic prophecy of the prophet Isaiah. This reading forms part of one of the famous four passages from the second part of Isaiah known as the Songs of the Suffering Servant, foreshadowing aspects of Jesus’  life and mission..  In Isaiah, the Suffering Servant probably refers to a single individual, or to the remnant of the faithful within Israel, or to some other religious reformer who will bring about peace and restoration.  Isaiah speaks of God crushing the Suffering Servant (Jesus) with suffering.  “By His sufferings shall My servant justify many.” We are invited to see the death of Jesus as the fulfillment of this passage because Jesus dies as a willing sacrifice for our sins, making us righteous by taking our sins away. Out of love, Jesus the servant lives and dies so that the unjust may know God’s justification.   The passage also gives us the assurance that if we work for righteousness, we will be able to receive the loving care of our Father, God, who will never abandon us.

Second Reading Summary

The second reading, taken from the letter to the Hebrews, tells us that, as God-man and Mediator-High Priest, Jesus has offered a fitting sacrifice to God to ransom us, liberating us from enslavement to sin. In the time of Jesus, ransom was the price paid to free someone from slavery.  Sometimes the “ransomer” offered himself as a substitute for the slave, as Jesus did. The reading also speaks of a High Priest who is able to sympathize with us in our weakness because Jesus has been tested in every way, though sinless, and so we can “confidently” hope for God’s mercy.


Additional insights on the Second Reading from Fr. Tony

The Letter to the Hebrews was written to bolster the Faith of Jewish converts to Christianity.  They suffered the contempt of former Jewish friends who had not been converted, and they felt nostalgia for the institutions of Judaism, such as rituals, sacrifices, and the priesthood .  This letter tries to show them how they still have all these “missing” things, and in a better form in Christianity than they had them in Judaism. While the first reading from Isaiah prophesies the necessary, sacrificial role of God’s servant, Jesus, in the plan of salvation, the author of Hebrews affirms Jesus’ priestly activity.  Since the Jewish converts to Christ did not have the priests they were used to, the author of Hebrews argues that Jesus is the true High Priest, superior to and far better than the Jewish priests because He, the Son of God, shares our fragile, suffering humanity.  Thus, we can “approach his throne of grace confidently to receive mercy,” because Jesus understands us.  Later, in Heb 9:10-14, St. Paul presents Jesus as both sacrificial victim and priest.  In both death and Resurrection, Jesus functions both as the Priest sacrificing the victim and as the Victim sacrificed.

Gospel Summary

Today’s Gospel explains how Jesus has accomplished the Messianic mission of saving mankind from the slavery of sin by becoming the “Suffering Servant.” In the context of the selfish request made by James and John for key positions in the Messianic political kingdom Jesus would establish after overthrowing the Roman rule, Jesus challenged his followers to become great by serving others with sacrificial agape love: “Whoever wishes to be great must be a servant.”  Jesus commands us to give ourselves to others in loving and humble service, and so to liberate them, just  as we were  freed by Jesus’ death.


Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

The context:  Our Gospel reading for today is another classic text on the question of ambition.  For the third time, (Mk 8:31, 9:31, 10:32), Jesus predicts swiftly approaching sufferings ending in death, but followed by resurrection on the third day.  In spite of Jesus’ two previous predictions, James and John are still thinking of Jesus as a revolutionary freedom-fighter. They share their contemporaries’ Jewish belief that the Messiah will be a political king, sitting on David’s throne and ruling over a re-united Israel.  They are sure that the purpose of Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem is to overthrow the Roman rulers.  Hence, they want an assurance from Jesus that they will be the first- and second-in-command in the coming Messianic Kingdom of God.  According to Middle Eastern custom, the seats on the right and left sides of the host were the places of honor, granted to the host’s closest friends and associates, or those the host wished particularly to recognize.

The high price of servant leadership: The request of James and John reveals their lack of understanding of true leadership.  They are looking for positions of power and prestige.  They think that leadership comes from where one sits rather than from how one serves.  Jesus gives them a sharp rebuke, saying, “You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They answer Jesus’ question with a very quick, “You bet we can!” That’s the kind of answer  you give when you envision the ‘cup’ in question to be a bejeweled golden goblet filled with good wine at the feast of Jesus’ inauguration as the replacement for the Caesar.” (Center for Excellence in Preaching; online). “The request of James and John for a share in the glory (Mark 10:35-37) must of necessity involve a share in Jesus’ sufferings, the endurance of tribulation and suffering for the Gospel” (Notes to the New American Bible). The cup was a symbol of the life experience allotted to each person by God. To “drink the cup” Jesus drinks is to accept the reality of suffering and to do God’s will in the midst of it, as Jesus did in Gethsemane and on Calvary. Those who follow the way of Jesus and seek to imitate the Master’s example of servant leadership must be willing even to suffer for others. During royal banquets, it was customary for an ancient king to hand the cup to his guests.  Thus, the cup became a metaphor for the life and experiences that God gives to men.  Jesus insisted that the disciples must drink from Jesus’ cup if they expected to reign with Jesus in his kingdom.  The cup Jesus had in mind was a bitter one, involving crucifixion.  For Jesus, to take this cup was to suffer the  judgment all mankind’s sin had earned. Baptism was also linked to the Divine judgment that will come as a result of human sinfulness.  Jesus had in mind the cup of the sacrificial death and the baptism of fire which would be met in Jerusalem.

Troubleshooting: Without fully understanding what Jesus meant, James and John quickly affirmed that they could share in their Master’s cup and baptism.  They had no understanding of the personal cost that lay behind these two images. [History tells us that James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:2), and John suffered deeply when he heard regularly for years, of the persecution of his fellow Christians, while he himself was forced into exile.]  Naturally, the request of James and John angered the other disciples.  They were upset that James and John had tried to gain some advantage over them.  So, Jesus called them all together to give them yet another lecture on real leadership in the kingdom of God. Jesus further explains that to sit on his right hand and on his left “is not Mine to give” to give, for these places are reserved for those for whom they are prepared by his Father. The passage thus declares that “Christ would give rewards to his followers; but only to such as should be entitled to them according to the purpose of his Father.” (Notes on the New Testament)

A challenge to achieve greatness through humble, sacrificial service: Jesus tells the apostles plainly what the nature of the Messianic mission is, how it will be accomplished and what should be the criteria of greatness among the disciples.  Jesus summarizes the Messianic  mission in one sentence: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  It is in service and humility, Jesus says, that one will find true greatness in the eyes of God. Jesus also explains that the accomplishment of the Messianic mission demands  the Messiah’s freely accepting and undergoing crucifixion, as a sacrifice to save people from their sins.  Here, Jesus challenges the apostles to share not only the power, but the service, sacrificing themselves for others as Jesus will do.  According to Jesus, greatness consists not in what we have, nor in what we can get from others but in what we give to others.  The CEO in Jesus’ kingdom is the one who serves the needs of all the others. The test of greatness in the reign of God is not how many people are in one’s service but how one may serve the many.  Jesus thus overturns all our values, teaching us that true greatness consists in loving, humble, and sacrificial service. Jesus has identified authority with selfless service and loving sacrifice.  For Jesus, true service means putting one’s gifts at the disposal of others.  Service is sacrifice:  extending a helping hand to those in need translates love into meaningful deeds. Jesus clearly teaches that when power and authority are used in selfish ways, for personal gain, pleasure or advantage, instead of on behalf of others, they cease to be Christian, and those who make this error become “like the leaders of the Gentiles.”  St. Paul, in Rom 1:1, says: “From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus.”  No wonder the official title of the popes down through the centuries has been, “Servant of the servants of God”!  For our contemporary, St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), greatness lay in the giving of her whole self to the very lowest, treating them as brothers and sisters and living close to them.

Authority exercised by sacrificial service: Very often, people in authority act as if others exist only to serve them.  Even in our democratic form of government, our elected officials, although called “public servants,” frequently strut around like monarchs, interested in serving their own appetites for power, prestige, and wealth.  They forget the fact that authority is different from power.  Power is something a person has and forces on people.  Authority is something one first receives from a higher power (ultimately God Who is the Source of Authority). That authority is recognized in one by the people who choose, receive and obey one as their Leader. One can exercise authority over those one leads, only through service and sacrifice, for this is God’s own pattern, shown in Christ Jesus.  When people see that a person has their best interests at heart and is willing to sacrifice and serve them, they will be willing to follow.  That’s real leadership and authority.  Jesus presents authority as one’s opportunity to serve others rather than to promote one’s own honor and glory.  Jesus connects authority with selfless service.  He considers authority exercised without sacrificial love as merely self-service.   A noted Italian sociologist Francis Alberoni in his Art of Commanding, listed the qualities of a true gifted leader: “inspiration, humility, a spirit of service, serenity, good example, determination, availability, and the capacity to expend oneself.” Such a leader is seen in Jesus who stoops down and wash the feet of the apostles (John 13).

Life messages

We are challenged to give our lives in loving service to others.

As Christians, we are all invited to serve others – and to serve with a smile!  We are challenged to drink the cup of Jesus by laying down our lives in humble, sacrificial service for others, just as Jesus did. The best place to begin the process of service by “self-giving” is in our own homes and workplaces.   When parents sacrifice their time, talents, health, and blessings for the welfare of others in the family, they are serving God. Service always involves suffering, because we can’t help another without some sacrifice on our part.  We are rendering great service to others also when we present them and their needs before God daily in our prayers.

We are invited to servant leadership

In order to become an effective Christian community, we need lay leaders with the courage of their Christian convictions to work for social justice.  We need spiritual leaders who can break open the Word for us, lead us in our prayer, offer us on the altar, and draw us together as sacrament.


 1) We are challenged to give our lives in loving service to others. To become an authentic disciple of Jesus means to put ourselves in the humble, demanding role of servant to others, to seek intentionally the happiness and fulfillment of those we love regardless of the cost to ourselves.  The best place to begin the process of “self-giving” service is in our own homes and in the workplace.  We have to look upon our education, training, and experience as preparation for service to others.  Whatever may be our place in society — whether important or unimportant — we can serve.  We should learn to serve with a smile.  This is possible whether we are in military service, social service, law, medical service, government, or business. We get chances to serve others every day.  Nurses serve their patients, teachers serve their students, parents serve the needs of their children, and spouses serve each another and their children as well as their own parents in old age.   In our parishes, we are also called to serve not to be served. We can here apply the famous “ask not” of John Kennedy: “Ask not what your parish, what your Church, your God can do for you; rather ask what you can do for your parish, for your Church, your God!” If we want to be leaders, we must learn to be available, accountable, and vulnerable.  This triad — availability, accountability, and vulnerability — qualifies us for what Robert Greenleaf has called Servant Leadership. “Life becomes harder for us when we live for others, but it also becomes richer and happier.” —Albert Schweitzer

2) We serve by suffering:  In today’s Gospel, Jesus connects service with suffering. Suffering and service go hand in hand.  First, service always involves suffering because one can’t help another without some personal sacrifice.  Second, God always invites those who suffer to put their suffering at the service of others by uniting it with the salvific suffering of Jesus.  Third, we must learn to be sensitive to the suffering of those around us.  One way to cultivate this sensitivity is to focus on the needs of others rather than on our own needs.  Another way is through prayer, as explained in St. Francis of Assisi’s famous Prayer for Peace.

3) We are invited to drink from the cup of Christ’s sufferingPeople often tailor their religious beliefs to fit their own needs.  In Christianity, this represents a false approach.  The Church needs true disciples who are cross-bearers and servants.  They seek and follow wherever Christ leads.  A happy family is the result of true sacrifice and humble service.  The husband and wife sacrifice convenience, comfort, and time.  There can be no success without sacrifice.  We are challenged to drink the cup of Jesus by laying down our lives in humble and sacrificial service for others, just as Jesus did.

4) We are invited to servant leadership: We are a community of equals and we share in the responsibilities of being community.  In order to be effective, we need leaders – both ordained, as ministerial priests, and lay.  These servants have been raised up from among us to call us to order, to be the ground on which the rest of us can move around, refining our lives as followers of Jesus.  We need leaders who will help us to form personal relationships with God and with each other that will assist us to become what we must be in order to wash one another’s feet.  We require leaders to call us to the ways of social justice.  We need leaders who tie us to other communities and groups who share similar values.  Finally, we need leaders who can break open the Word for us, who can lead us in our prayer, offering us on the altar, and who can draw us together as sacrament.  No one of us possesses all that we as a community need.  Our job as servant leaders is to evoke, to recognize, to nurture, to celebrate, and to help unify the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work here in our community. Jesus, our model of selflessness, surrendered entirely to the Father’s will out of love for us (CCC #536). We have this possibility of becoming “partners” with Jesus, to be a servant just like Him – “there is no other ladder by which we may get to Heaven” (CCC #618).

End of homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS. 


Support your senator doing free service:  A priest went into a Washington, D. C. barber shop for a haircut.  When the barber finished, the priest asked him what the charge was and the barber responded, “No charge, Father, you are serving the Lord and I consider my service rendered to you as a service to the Lord.”  The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop he found at his front door a stack of usable Christmas cards and a note of thanks from the priest.  A few days later, a police officer went to the same barber for a haircut.  When he went to pay, the barber said, “No charge, officer.  I consider it a service to our community because you serve our community.”  The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop there were a dozen donuts at the front door and a note of thanks from the policeman.  A few days after this an influential senator came in for a haircut.  “No charge, Senator, I consider it a service to my country.”  The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop there were two congressmen waiting for their chance for the barber’s free service, carrying a note of thanks from the Senator!

Good old days: George Bernard Shaw was once asked in what generation he would have preferred to live. The witty Irishman replied: “The age of Napoleon, because then there was only one man who thought he was Napoleon.

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website ( Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week. Since Fr. Tony is retiring from parish duties, he has started a personal website: where he has started putting his Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA lessons, Faith Formation articles and other useful items for pastors and pastoral assistants. Fr. Tony warmly invites priests and deacons and the public to visit his website and use it for their preaching and teaching ministries. He welcomes your corrections, modifications and suggestions to improve the homilies and articles given in this website.

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NAB Introductions

Clicking on these links to download Fr. Tony’s Microsoft Word documents on the introductory material from the NAB Bible provided by the USCCB. 







Judges 7


Samuel I, II

Kings I & II

Chronicles I & II







Job & Introduction to Wisdom Books




Song of Songs






















Preface to the New American Bible

ntroduction to the gospels

Matthew (L)

Mark (L)

Luke (L)

John (L)

Acts of the Apostles (L)

Introduction to Paul’s epistles to the Romans (L)

Romans (L)

Corithians I (L)

Corinthians II (L)

Galatians (L)

Ephesians (L)

Philippiens (L)

Colossians (L)

Thessalonians I, II (L)

Timothy I, II (L)

Titus (L)

Philemon (L)



Peter I, II

 John I, II, III


The Book of Revelation

About Fr. Tony

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website ( Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week. Since Fr. Tony is retiring from parish duties, he has started a personal website: where he has started putting his Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA lessons, Faith Formation articles and other useful items for pastors and pastoral assistants. Fr. Tony warmly invites priests and deacons and the public to visit his website and use it for their preaching and teaching ministries. He welcomes your corrections, modifications and suggestions to improve the homilies and articles given in this website.

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