Homily for October 18

Photo by CP
Homily for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Did you catch that bold prayer James and John make of Jesus? 
“Lord, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you!”
It’s bold indeed but probably not much bolder

than how you and I often pray.
Don’t we find ourselves saying,
“Lord, this is what I want.
This is what I need. 
This is what I want you to do for me,
or for someone I love –
and I’d really like you to do this for me now.”

And what were James and John asking for?
They were looking for a little special treatment.

They wanted good seats in the kingdom.
They figured that Jesus could get them skybox seats
in the eternal ballpark where your team always wins.
Maybe they thought Jesus would email or text his heavenly Father
and order up a couple of choice tickets.

But Jesus knew it didn’t work that way.
He knew that even he was going to pay a price, the ultimate price,
for his seat at his Father’s right hand.
So he tells James and John,
Guys, you don’t know what you’re asking for!
Those seats don’t come free.

They come at a price. 
Will you drink the cup of suffering
I’m going to drink?” 

And having no idea in the world of what Jesus was talking about,
James and John answered together, “We can!” 

Sometimes we’re like James and John in this regard.
In our hearts and with our words
we freely commit ourselves to the Lord
but often without a thought or a clue about the Cup -
the Cup from which Jesus invites us to drink: the Cup of suffering.

Although we worship every Sunday in the shadow of the Cross
and eat the Bread and drink the Cup
that proclaim his death until he comes again –
we might still miss what James and John missed:
that there is no following the Lord
apart from a share in his suffering.

It’s amazing, indeed, that Christians might ever imagine
that somehow on account of their faith,
they will escape suffering in this life.
Rather, Jesus promises us just the opposite:
if we would follow him, we will drink from his Cup,
the Cup from which he himself prayed to be delivered
on the night before he suffered and died.
An image might help us here.

Jesus speaks of a cup.
We come to the altar and bring a cup
into which we pour some wine,
and then we bless and drink from the cup.

What did Jesus see in the cup that we don’t see?
He saw his suffering.

Suppose we take his crown of thorns from the Cross
and use it to crown the Cup of the Last Supper,
the cup of his suffering, 
(place the crown of thorns on the Cup) 
the cup he offers us when he says,
“Take this all of you and drink from it…

Who would easily or freely drink, from a cup such as this?

What kind of suffering is in the Cup Jesus offers us?
His Cup holds more than the suffering
that comes in every human life:
the suffering of physical and emotional pain,
the suffering disappointment, hurt, loss and grief.

More than all that,
the Cup Jesus offers us holds the suffering that comes:
from being faithful to God’s word
when that word asks more than I’m ready to give;
from being faithful to God’s law of love
when my beloved, my friend, offends me;
from being faithful to God’s truth
when a lie would be so much easier;
from being faithful to God’s justice
when some other deal would favor me;
from being faithful to God as my Creator
when I think I know better, that I know more than God.

The Cup of Suffering we’re invited to drink is made
from the steel of the 10 commandments
and the gold of Jesus’ gospel of love and mercy.

The Cup of Suffering is filled with Blood of Jesus,
his blood spilled on the Cross for us and given
to mix and commingle with the blood of our daily lives.

To drink from this Cup is to seal our Communion
with the Lord and with one another.

And to drink from this Cup
is to drink of the healing Jesus offers us:
healing of the pain of the natural human suffering we all know
and healing of the pain that comes of living in fidelity
to God, to his Word and to his Truth.

On the night before he died
Jesus gathered at table with his friends
and he knew the suffering that would be his on the next day
and wanted to share with us the grace of the sacrifice
he was about to make.

Remember the words we heard in Isaiah: 
Through his suffering, my servant will justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear. 

So at the Last Supper
Jesus took bread, as his Body, and broke it for us.
And he took wine, as his Blood, and poured it out for us.

He invited us to find our wholeness in his brokenness,
to find our healing in his suffering and death.

Pray with me that in the Eucharist at this altar
we find in the Sacrament a healing balm for all our pain
and a share in the life he offered and poured out for us
on the Cross. 

When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup
we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.


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