When the mother of James and John asks Jesus to give her sons a special place in his Kingdom, Jesus responds, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Matthew 20:22). “Can we drink the cup?” is the most challenging and searching question we can ask ourselves. it requires radical acceptance first of our human limitations, a falling down into our most profound place of humility before God, others and our true holy self. And then it inspires new creation, new life, as we surrender to reliance upon God’s grace and Spirit to fill us. The cup is the cup of life, full of joys and sorrows, hope and despair, love and loneliness. Can we bear to sip from this cup, and to drink from it fully, as Christ asks? Is this possible for human beings seeking to find a way of love, peace and comfort in this often harsh and pitiless world? Can we drink from our cups and hold them out for others as witness to our humility and vulnerability, our struggles and doubts, and yet also to our joy and triumph over suffering? To do so, we must claim our own individual cup, the cup poured out for us by our unique journey through life. In this way, we struggle and rejoice every day to the extent that we are drinking from the cup of life that Jesus offers by his living words, words as alive and direct and immediate today as when he first spoke them. We lift it up as hope and nourishment to others. We find the wholeness and healing of salvation and grow in this through sharing our new life with others.
This is the spiritual agony and ecstasy of our faith. To be human, is to suffer, often alone. To follow Christ, is to suffer divinely, in the loving embrace of God.
And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” – Matthew 26:39
Christ says these words as he is about to suffer the infinite totality of sins and sorrows of every human being, past, present and future, in an act of astonishing and bewildering grace and sacrificial love. Amazingly, in the miracle and mystery of the Cross, Christ is suffering for you and me, individually; we, each of us, are on the cross with Christ. We are to follow Christ to the cross, to carry our cross, admittedly with fear and trembling. And being human we are likely to resist and deny this cup throughout our lives, throughout the day. God compassionately, lovingly knows this about our character and yet delights in the integrity of our holy being, and still offers it to us, letting us take just a little sip, as we are able, to then glory in its overflowing filling of our thirst. Christ goes to the cross, drinking the cup fully, to suffer our own sins and the sins of the world, but also to experience profound transformation in this suffering, changing from that of the lone human being, stripped naked before the world, persecuted and tortured by man and seemingly forsaken by God, to that of the very Spirit of God suffering in self-sacrificial love for the triumph over sin, suffering and death–here and now, and forever.
Through faith we drink from the cup so that we too suffer like Jesus, having the courage to believe we are not suffering just our particular pain, our lone existence, but we experience, made anew in Christ, the shared pain of humanity, our solidarity with every human being in the body of God. We immerse ourselves in the shared suffering of others; we identify with others, in every condition and circumstance, however different and unlike us. We discover our love for those on the edge of society, on the margins, those who are poor in spirit, for they truly do have the kingdom of heaven through Christ. And in this way, we live in and build the kingdom of heaven. Our worldly suffering as isolated egocentric individuals is transformed into divine suffering as members in the body of Christ, where we feel bathed in God’s love and triumph over the sting of suffering and death. We experience the Holy Spirit who gives abundant joy, love, hope and faith, who gives eternal life, and we experience transformed new creation. This is the beautiful blood-red rose that rises from the ashes.
If you have become ash,
Then wait you become a rose again.
And do not remember how often you have become ash
But how often you were reborn in ashes to a new rose.