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The Cup of Suffering

The 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Can you drink the cup that I drink?”

If the Holy Spirit has ever confronted you with that question you know how terrifying it is. Can you drink the cup that I drink? James and John quickly answer “yes”, but they didn’t know what they were really saying. We sorta do! We know that Jesus is talking about his Passion, about the mockery from the crowd, his abandonment by the apostles, his physical torture and suffering that culminated in his Death. We know the cup he is talking about is the cup of his Blood, poured out for us and for many for the forgiveness of sins. So when that cup of suffering is passed to us and our life and health becomes seriously impaired by sickness and old age it can be really hard to say “yes”.

But what I want you to understand today is that when that bitter cup is given to us a mystery of faith unfolds in our own lives. Before Christ’s suffering was the experience of the brokenness of the world. In the beginning God created and all that He created was good; the original paradise of creation where there was no suffering and no death because that was never part of the plan. But humanity strayed by our original sin; by our choice creation became something other than what God intended, and the price for that was suffering and death. The natural meaning of suffering is simply this: the world is not what it should be. When we suffer in any way we say to ourselves without any conscious thought, “I was not meant for this.”

The mystery of faith we experience in suffering now is because Christ gave a new meaning to suffering. In his humanity he was like us in all things but sin. As the second reading said, he knew our weakness and had been tested in every way, and yet he remained obedient to the Father and free from sin. And so in his divinity he became the suffering servant of the first reading, the one with the power and authority set the world right as he experienced the brokenness of the world that he did not participate in breaking. His acceptance of our punishment became the great act of salvation, and his resurrection heralded the end of sin and suffering. When Christ returns and God’s Kingdom is fully established sin and suffering will be no more. There will be no more death, no more pain. This is the day that we long for.

But for now, all of us at some point are invited to drink the cup that he drinks, invited not just to suffer but to find the new meaning of suffering by being united to Christ upon the Cross in some small way. We are invited to know not just the message “I was not meant for this” but “I was not meant for this and this does not win in the end, there is a life eternal already won for us where suffering is no more.” It is a beautiful mystery, but still not easy! It is sill hard to suffer, still hard to say “yes”, which is why the Christ, though the Church, offers us the Anointing of the Sick. In that sacrament we find the grace of God which gives hope, strength, and comfort to those who are suffering. I encourage you that as soon as you find your health seriously impaired… when you learn a diagnosis or realize that there is a long and uncertain road ahead of you… that is the time to ask for the anointing. Don’t wait until your deathbed and hospice is guessing a time frame that you have left. Call when you that cup of suffering is handed to you, so that you have every grace to fully experience that new meaning of suffering. And in the smaller sufferings of life turn your mind to the Cross, set your heart upon these things that we believe and ask God for the grace to know our salvation in a deeper way.

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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.

Published inHomilies