One of the images the Scriptures use for life is that of a cup. Just as a cup may be filled with a bitter-sweet drink, so the life of each of us could be said to be a mixture of the sweet and the bitter. It is a rich and very powerful image for us to reflect on this week.
While the cup can stand as an image for life as a whole, it can also stand for a particular segment of one’s life. There may be times when one’s cup of life is full of bitterness. It may be so bitter that we do not want to drink it, or feel that we are unable to drink it. But at other times the cup may be overflowing with sweetness and we can’t get enough of it. And still at other times the cup may be tasteless. Finally, there are times when the cup of life is empty.
The two apostles, James and John, in today’s Gospel account came to Jesus with a very selfish request. They wanted positions at the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom. It is obvious that the two brothers thought of Jesus’ kingdom in terms of an earthly kingdom, one of power and prestige. Those in high places would be accorded honors, glory, and power!
Jesus posed the question to James and John, “Can you drink the cup that I am to drink?” Without hesitation they responded in the affirmative because they thought it would be full of sweetness. What Jesus was really asking was, “Are you willing to go through the suffering that I am going to go through?”
To drink of the cup of sacrifice and suffering was no easy thing. When faced with it himself, Jesus asked, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” But then he added, “Not my will but yours be done.” And Jesus did drink it.
The two apostles didn’t know at this time that Jesus’ cup would be a bitter one, nor did they know their own weakness. When the time came, far from drinking from the cup, they fled from the garden and left Jesus alone to drink from the cup.
None of us knows in advance what the cup of life holds for us. We discover this only as we walk the journey of life. Jesus chose to drink an extremely bitter cup, which was not easy, but he drank it to the full. Why? Out of love for you and me. Love makes a bitter cup drinkable.
Jesus was sinless but he experienced weakness and temptation as we all do. He understands our weakness and that is why we should approach him with confidence, knowing that he can and will help us to drink the cup of life that is ours to drink.
To drink the cup of life, especially a cup made difficult by a life of sacrifice and serving others, is to follow Christ. Always remember that those who share the bitterness of the Cross of Christ will also share the sweetness of his Easter victory. Alleluia!!!
— Fr. Dennis, October 21, 2018