My Chalice You Will Drink
Gospel Reflection for Wednesday, March 8, 2023
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem,
he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves,
and said to them on the way,
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests
and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death,
and hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and scourged and crucified,
and he will be raised on the third day.”
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her, “What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left,
this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
There is a lot to unpack in today’s gospel…. even more if we consider the other readings for today. In the first passage (Jer 18:18-20), we read about the plot to assassinate the prophet, Jerimiah, and we hear his prayer to God for protection. In the Gospel, we find Jesus knowingly and willingly offering Himself up for sacrifice. Yet, even He prayed that if it was the Father’s will He might not have to suffer so. That is a strange concept. First, it is the most unfathomable even in history that God would come in human form and suffer death at the hands of His creation to save His creation. Then, it is difficult to understand how one person of the Trinity could pray to another person of the Trinity and seemingly not be in accord. But, we must remember human nature.
No human being willingly suffers torture and death except for a martyr… and the martyr’s resolve is supernatural. We all talk about trusting in God’s will, but are we willing to say, “not my will but thine” in like manner to Saint Steven or Siant Polycarp, etc.? Do not answer, because regardless what you believe you would do now, you do not know what you would do facing real torture and death. A parent may willingly die to save their child… who among us would willingly die to save the life of those who brutally hurt us, knowing they will probably never feel remorse or change their ways? Jesus did that very thing.
Perhaps one might willingly suffer if he knew he would be honored. Yet, our Lord tells His disciples they will suffer, but they will not be honored among men during their lives. They will serve and be reviled.
There is an old saying that you can judge a man’s character by how he treats those who cannot benefit him. Many flatter or offer help to those in higher positions than themselves. It is the rare wealthy and powerful man who opens the door for a stranger, quietly leaves a large tip or anonymously helps a young person (etc.). One such man who did that for me was the late Rush Limbaugh. I will not go into details, but I owned a small business that got into trouble. A friend knew Rush and put in a word for me. Mr. Limbaugh then made some phone calls or emails on my behalf. He never said a word to me about it - if fact, I only spoke to him as a caller to his show. He did not know me and in no way could he benefit from helping me. My friend never even asked him to help me. Out of simple generosity of spirit and kindness, one of the most wealthy and powerful men in America saved me from financial ruin… and probably worse.
There is a priest who sometimes hears my confession. I never see him behind the screen, but I know it is the same priest because he always gives the same penance: “If you see someone who needs help in any way, or even a kind word, will you help them?” Honestly, I’ve felt like I needed some tougher penance many times! But, to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself is the heart of the Law. When the end comes, few of us will likely face heroic circumstances. What we will likely face is the understanding that in times when we could have helped someone, we did not. We were busy, distracted, unaware, etc. Let’s try to do a little better… a small gesture may mean everything.
Thank you, Judson. Your last sentence, "Let's try to do a little better... a small gesture may mean everything", really touched me!