Fr. Nnamdi Moneme: Why We Must Drink the Cup of Jesus Today

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By Fr. Nnamdi Moneme, OMV, Catholic Exchange, October 26, 2018

A homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Have you ever had the thought of quitting on some inspired goal? Maybe you have been trying to practice a particular virtue or overcome a vice? Maybe you have been trying to meet some set spiritual goal or accomplish a project that you sense God has inspired in you. Maybe you have been trying to reach out to a loved one who never seems to reciprocate your love? The desire to quit becomes stronger when the effort just seems too much, the obstacles appear insurmountable, and the results inadequate.

The truth is that if we quit doing something truly good for whatever reason, then it is all about us and has nothing to do with the love that we should have for God. Quitting such activities shows that we never had God as the origin and center of such activities. In short, we were never acting to please God.

The Zebedee brothers approached Jesus in Mk 10:35-45 with this request, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”  The simply wanted to gain instant glory without any reference to living a life that was Christ-centered and pleasing to God. It was all about them securing the highest places in the kingdom.

Jesus responds to them by telling them that they must first drink His cup, “The cup that I drink, you will drink.” They must share in the cup of Jesus, doing what He did, enduring all that He endured, and most importantly, they are to do and endure all these so as to please the Father and not for their own selfish goals. Likewise, the cup of Jesus’s suffering is present in our lives so that we act like Christ in all circumstances and to do so for the greater glory of the Father.

Divine providence places this cup of Christ’s suffering before us in many ways even as we embrace what we truly believe is the will of God for us. It may be persistent failures or poor results in our lives. We may be facing endless obstacles and challenges as we seek to do His will. We may feel put down by others. We may even experience strong temptations or become discouraged by the lack of visible results. Things like these are to guarantee that we are not using our God-given gifts to build our own ego-temples. One way that we can show that we are doing it for God and not for ourselves is to endure all these and refuse to quit doing the true, good and beautiful thing.

How does the cup of Jesus help us to purify our intentions so that the things that we do are not about us but God-centered and God-directed?

Firstly, the cup of suffering is our intimate sharing in the Christ’ suffering and joy. We share in His suffering both interiorly and exteriorly, personally and communally. Didn’t Jesus assure us that “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful but your sorrow will turn into joy.”(Jn 16:20) Didn’t Jesus also assure us that “One’s enemies will be those of his household?”(Mt 10:36) Our interior trials and the insults and persecutions from others, especially loved ones, mysteriously ensure that our activities are not self-centered.

Secondly the cup of Jesus’ suffering is also a source of grace and mercy because it is an encounter with Jesus Christ, “the high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses.” In such difficult moments, instead of seeking confidence in ourselves, we must “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” This is how the cup of suffering brings about deep ongoing conversion from self-centered living to Christ-centered living.

Thirdly, the cup of Christ’s suffering helps us to reject worldly values and closely follow the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus spoke thus to the indignant ten, “Those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them…But it shall not be so among you.” They are rather to be conformed to Christ who served all at great personal cost, “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant…The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Fourthly, the cup of Christ’s suffering helps us to serve and give like Jesus who served and gave His life. Don’t we tend more to serve and take? We claim to be serving God but do not hesitate to take from others what is our due and even more than our due if possible? We can easily serve for the sake of what we can get from others e.g. remuneration, praise, acceptance, patronage, etc. Like Jesus, we must be ready to serve and to give up our legitimate rights to certain things and rewards from those whom we serve.

Lastly, the cup of suffering nurtures in us selfless compassion for others who are in deep spiritual need. There are many people living today without the true knowledge and love for Jesus, His saving truth, or the teaching of His Church. We can offer to Jesus all the difficulties and pains of our activities for the salvation of souls. Jesus’ suffering was definitely not in vain, “Through His suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt He shall bear.”(Is 53:11) Likewise, our own sufferings as we seek to follow Christ – prayer, service, witness, charity, etc. – are all useful for the salvation of souls if we unite it to the suffering of Christ.

How are we responding to the ongoing scandal on homosexuality in the clergy? Do we see it as a time to quit or to cower as Catholics before a ruthless secular culture or do we look deeper and see a divine invitation to be truly Catholics for the sake of Jesus and not for our selfish ends? Can we perceive Jesus offering us to drink from His cup of suffering as Holy Mother Church goes through a great trial today?

We are indeed sharing in the suffering of Christ as the Catholic Church and faith is being mocked and ridiculed because of the heartless sexual perversity of some of her clergy and the cover up of the hierarchy over the years. Because Jesus is not surprised or shocked by our weakness and sinfulness, we are certain that this is also a time of mercy for our repentance and grace for heroic living. This is also a time to vehemently reject all worldly values like homosexuality that is being presented as something good, true, and beautiful. This is the time to be conformed more closely to Christ and to imitate His own purity. This is not a time to serve and to take but to serve and to give up what is even dear to us like our comfort and approval from others. This is a time to labor for those souls who are trying to quench their hunger and thirst for God in the filth of our secular world.

We must not be deceived: Jesus will reward only what is done for love for Him and inspired by His grace, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you have?” (Mt 5:46) This is why we must embrace and drink His cup to the dregs today if we are going to do and endure all things just like He did and for His Father through Him, and thus gain eternal merit.

Our Eucharistic cup is truly our sacramental participation in Christ’s life and suffering. It is here that Jesus pours His grace and mercy into our hearts so that we can courageously share in His cup of suffering in our daily life despite our weaknesses. But we just cannot receive His grace and then build our own kingdom.

Our Lord has also given us His own Mother to help us do all for Him. It was all about God always for Mary. She did not glory in her works but offered praise to God, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” She did not quit from her vocation as Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of all the redeemed even if she had to stand at the foot of the cross and watch Jesus die.

With divine grace in our hearts and with Mary as our Mother, we can embrace the cup of Christ’s suffering today and do and endure what Christ did and endured for the glory of the Father. If we still choose to quit, then it is all about us and has nothing to do with God.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

image: jorisvo /