Saturday, October 17, 2009

Can You Drink The Cup That I Drink?

(29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B)

As soon as we begin to hear the gospel today, we know that something is very wrong. James and John approach the Lord and say, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” What? The disciples don’t get to boss around the master, or the learners the teacher! That’s backwards! We’ve all been in those homes where it is the children who are running the family, or God forbid, the cat. The rotten fruits of such disorder are many, and such confusion is the problem of James and John as they try to tell the Lord what to do.

James and John want to sit on Jesus’ right and left when he comes into his glory. Fine; Jesus knows that they will, but he also knows that they do not understand that his glory will be his exaltation on the throne of the Cross. They do not understand what they have surely heard in the Scriptures: Isaiah’s prophecy that the one who accomplishes the will of the LORD will be God’s “suffering servant.”

Jesus asks, “Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” St. John Chrysostom teaches that this cup is Jesus’ destiny as the Suffering Servant, and the baptism is his Passion. The Passion of Christ is a baptism because it accomplishes the purification and renewal of the world. Are James and John ready for the same destiny? Or perhaps closer to home, are we?

Here at Mass we ought to keep Jesus’ challenge in mind—“Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”—when we approach the Lord’s suffering in Holy Communion. We who are devout Catholics have received Holy Communion many more times than we can remember, and so one danger for us is that we might begin to receive casually. It’s a serious thing to dare to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. Here at Mass we receive his broken Body and his Blood poured out on the Cross. We consent to receive the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ into our bodies. It ought to fill us with a little bit of healthy fear and trembling, because to receive the sacrifice of Christ into our lives and our bodies is to allow God to configure our souls to Christ the Suffering Servant. In our Holy Communion we are asking to drink Jesus’ own cup of suffering, and to be baptized into his Passion and death. Now this is the Passion and death that is the purifying baptism for the world, but that doesn’t make it easy. It is a joyful thing to receive our Lord in Holy Communion, but it is also a grave challenge.

This is how the reversal Jesus teaches at the end of the gospel today makes sense. When we consent to be configured to the sacrifice of Christ, when we become willing to share in the saving work of the Suffering Servant, we effect in our own selves a reversal of the abusive power structures of the world. The rulers of this world like to lord it over those subject to them, but Jesus says it shall not be so among us who are his disciples. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” To be great in Christ is to be servant; this is the salvation from abuse of power and oppression that God offers to the world in his Son. Let us reverently approach the Lord in Holy Communion today, and allow ourselves to be shaped into the pattern of God the Servant revealed to us in Jesus Christ, that God may accomplish in us the salvation He gives to the world in his Son.

4 comments:

4narnia said...

AWESOME homily, Fr. C! this weekends readings from Sacred Scripture and the theme of the "Suffering Servant" is pretty relevant to us all. but, for me, personally, i can relate to the last paragraph of your homily - the manager at the bookstore where i've worked part-time for the past six years (thanks be to God it's only part-time!) is very abusive and oppresive with his power as manager. it's pretty sad, because it wasn't always this way with him. so i tolerate it, pray for him, and feel that maybe i'm there for a reason. there are other co-workers there, too, so i'm not alone and God is good. i know that sometimes we do suffer when we serve - it's not always easy. but, faith, perseverance and complete trust in the Holy Spirit will get us through. just like Fr. Moe said in his homily at the 5:00 earlier this evening: not his exact words, but he said something like this: "we all have a title in life as something - as a mother or a father or a grandmother or a grandfather or as a teacher, etc... and any title is a role of service to others." so, sometimes we have to ask ourselves for whom or for what cause we might be willing to suffer. you are right, Fr. C, about telling us to be careful not to receive Jesus in Holy Communion too casually - it IS a very serious thing to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus in Holy Communion. PEACE! ~tara t~

pennyante said...

I've always love the Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah. As it happens, I will be first reader tomorrow, so I will get to read those beautiful words...

Isn't it amazing that these Apostles continually said the wrong things; yet God used them for his greater glory...

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

So much of this has real relevance for our professional lives. I try to get junior and senior managers who work for me in my organization to take that servant approach. Those who do have wild success not only in building strongly bonded teams but also in accomplishing their missions. Those who don't are not nearly as successful in either.

I enjoyed the post.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes relate aborted children this suffering servant passage. These children drank from the cup and have shared a similar baptism from death unto life. "Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear."