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Homily Notes 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2018

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29th Sunday of Ordinary Time/ Can We Drink as Jesus Drank?        

When we hear the Gospel story we just read we might think back to our childhood. In grade school one of the things we wanted was to be liked by our teacher.  Wouldn’t we all watch to see which classmate the teacher would complement?  We would also watch to see who would try to raise their hand first to make an impression.  We might think that some people never grow up. It seems like James and John did not. The brothers want to know if they were the favorites.  The other apostles were jealous.

            Going back to that grade school interaction perhaps we remember how wonderful it was when our teacher asked us to do something for them.  We felt like they trusted us.  What were some of the little tasks we would get to do?  We might be asked to hold the door open as our classmates walked through.  Maybe we might be told to erase the board (before there were smart boards).  The teacher might let us sharpen the pencils.   Or, we might be asked to collect the papers after a test.  But the biggest honor was to take a message to the office.  We felt free when we were let out of class to roam the halls by ourselves.  The bigger thrill was to think that the teacher thought we were reliable.  We did not want to betray that confidence.

            When we hear Jesus say.  “Can you drink of the cup I am to drink of” our thoughts immediately the passion narrative.  Jesus suffered and died on the cross.  Most of the Apostles would also die for their faith. Jesus seemed to be looking into the future predicting what was going to happen to his closest friends.  Right before this episode in the Gospel Jesus predicts his death on the cross (Mk 10:32-34). He tells us they would have to face the cross. Was he testing James and John to see if they would flinch? 

            Somehow it seems like what Jesus was saying was that he could not offer his disciples earthly stature, but that he could only promise them humiliation if they followed him.  If we are really going to be true to our vocation as disciples, we must be willing to undergo a personal passion.  Too many people run into difficulty as Christians and they walk away, they give up.  Jesus was asking his disciples if they were going to lose heart the first-time things got tough. James and John said no. But at Jesus’ passion they ran. Only later did they gained courage sacrificing all for Jesus.  James was martyred at the hands of King Herod Agrippa early on in his mystery.  John on the other hand was said to have lived a long life.  His cup of suffering was one that lasted for years as he preached the gospel long after the other Apostles past off the scene.

            Now, few, if any of us is going to die a martyr’s death. We are like John.  We might ask, “Well how does this gospel apply to me?”  We could go back to the classroom to understand. 

            Once there was little fourth grade girl named Mary who always wanted to please her teacher.  She was the brightest child in the room.  Because of that she got her work done before anyone else.  Because of this the teacher had to try to keep her busy.  The teacher always had to have extra work for Mary to do.  She would be the one who would clean the board.  Mary would be the one to take the trip to the office. And Mary just loved it.  She reveled in the extra attention.  She considered her self to be the most gifted girl in class.

            One day the class was doing a work sheet.  Many of the children in the room were having trouble with the assignment.     The teacher was traveling from desk to desk trying to help the students who had question after question.  Mary finished her work sheet with no problem.  She got out of her seat.  She went over to her teacher tugging at her sleeve.  Is there something I can do for you?  The teacher was struggling to help all the other pupils. Mary, this day was annoying.  Finally, she said to Mary.  “Mary there is something you can do for me.  Help Joe with his worksheet.  I don’t need your help, but Joe needs your help.  That is the best way you could help me is by helping him.”

            How does this gospel apply to us?  Jesus does not need our worship.  He really does not need our praise.  Now it is nice of us to come and worship him but does Jesus benefit from that?  We do, but he doesn’t, if we really think about it a minute.

            We help Jesus when we lift up our brothers and sisters who are in need.  Jesus did die for the world, but before he died a physical death he died a little bit each day by giving a part of himself away to those in want.  There is a daily martyrdom that we Christians can undergo.  We meet people, each day, who are in physical need, who are in emotional pain.  Do we take the time for them?  Do we offer our charity?  Do we give people our time?   This is the cup Jesus asks us to drink of.  And it is the most difficult cup of all because the pain does not last for a few hours or a few days, but it is an inconvenience that we consciously choose over and over.

            Jesus asks, “Can you drink of the cup that I drink of?”  Notice that Jesus uses the present tense.  He does not point to a future event.  No, he points to a cup self-sacrifice we can drink from every day because we want to imitate him.