Can You Drink from His Cup?
By Dan Valenti (Oct 23, 2012)
The Year of Faith (Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013) is meant as a time of both reflection and action. In this holy and apostolic year, the Church has opened the door to faith in a way that recalls how God opened that door for the early Church.
"The Year of Faith is an opportunity for every Catholic to turn towards Jesus Christ, encounter Him in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and rediscover the Faith and the Church," says the Most Rev. Joseph McFadden, Bishop of Harrisburg, Pa., and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Catholic Education. In his apostolic letter announcing the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI called it "a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world."
The Way of Jesus Will Have Its Challenges
Part of this "authentic conversion," says Fr. Ken Dos Santos, MIC, rector of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass., is the courage to understand and embrace the fact that our faith as Catholics will often call us to make sacrifices. As Jesus told the apostles, it will be a road fraught with challenges, difficulty, and suffering.
In his homily on Sunday, Oct. 21, Fr. Ken took the Gospel reading from Mark, Chapter 10, verses 35-40, as a means to reflect on this. In this passage, the Apostles James and John ask Jesus, "'Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.' But Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?' And they said to him, 'We are able.' And Jesus said to them, 'The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left hand is not mine to grant, but it is for those whom it has been prepared.'"
Here is Fr. Ken's reflection on that passage:
In the Gospel passage today we hear Jesus speaking these words to two of His disciples, James and John — the sons of Zebedee — they who of their own free will choose to make this request of Him. But, to what does Jesus refer when he speaks these words?
We need look only as far as the 26th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew to receive an answer to this question: "Withdrawing a second time, He prayed again, My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!" (see Mt 2:26). And, we know that Jesus does drink this cup of suffering, the cup the Father has prepared for Him from all Eternity. He freely gives His life on the Cross for our sins.
Jesus completes His mission, the mission that He is sent by the Father to accomplish: "The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (see Mt 20:28). If, therefore, the Son of man is sent not to be served but rather to serve, if Jesus is sent not to let this cup pass Him by but instead, to accept it lovingly in obedience to the Father, so also, with James and John, and so also with all of us.
We are called as Catholics, as Christians, to drink from this cup, to serve God and neighbor, we are called to imitate, Jesus — the Son of God — who has given us a perfect example to follow: an example of total obedience to His Father in Heaven, an example of self-denial, an example of acceptance, and an example of the supreme act of love: "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Mt 16:25)
If we choose to serve God and others, as Jesus did, if we choose lay down our lives out of love for God and others, then we have died to our own will. This means that we place our greatest trust in God. It means we have chosen Him over our own self-love and the love we have for other people.
Hearing this should remind us of our need to internalize the first commandment, "I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me." Thus, if we choose put something or someone else before God, we commit the sin of idolatry.
In paragraph 2113, the the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: "Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, Satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc."
Jesus has invited us to love as He has loved, to lay down our lives out of love for God and neighbor. Jesus is asking us a question, the same question He once asked James and John: "Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?"
Saint John Chrysostom speaks about this question within his homilies on the Gospel of Matthew: "What then does Christ reply? Showing, that they were not asking for something spiritual, He says, 'You do not know what you are asking [for].' How great, how marvelous, how surpassing even the powers above."
After that, St. John writes, Jesus adds, "Are [you] able to drink of the cup that I shall drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" See, how He [immediately] draws them from their suspicion, by framing His discourse from contrary topics? For you speak of honor and crowns, but I to you of conflicts and labors. For just as this is not the season for rewards, neither shall that glory of mine appear now, but the present time is one of slaughter, wars, and dangers."
Through His question, St. John says, "Jesus both urges and attracts them. For He did not say, 'Are [you] able to be slain?' 'Are [you] able to pour forth your [own] blood?' How does He phrase the question? 'Are [you] able to drink of the cup?' Then to attract them to it, He [says], 'Which I shall drink of,' that by their fellowship with Him in it they might be made more ready."
We who are called to follow Christ, to serve God and neighbor, should remember the words of the Master: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Mt 16:25). If through the grace of God we choose to serve God and others, as Jesus did — if we choose to lay down our lives out of love for God and neighbor — we have faith. We believe with our whole heart and mind that when we are called to our eternal reward, we will live with Him forever in Heaven.
A Year for All
The Year of Faith is meant for all Catholics, practicing and lapsed. The reasons why someone may have wandered from the faith vary widely. It could have been a move to a new city and failing to connect with a parish, misunderstandings of Church teachings, a bad experience with a religious, and many more reasons. As Fr. Ken mentioned in his reflection on the Gospel reading, Jesus' question about "drinking from His cup" means that often, the contents are bitter. Maybe in such troubling moments, a person gave up. Well, so did the Apostles, all but the beloved John. The point is, Jesus, The Divine Mercy, always — always — has His arms open to welcome you back.
In this Year, the Church wants everyone to know: You are a child of God. That God called you by name. In His eyes, you are precious called by name. This Year of Faith proves, once again, that in the eye of God, it is never too late to renew our relationship with Christ and His Church.