October 21, 2012
Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost
They just don't get it, do they?
We just don't get it, do we?
The power to serve - the power of servanthood ... as Father Robert Fuller (St Frances Cabrini Parish, Tucson, Arizona) says, the only thing that makes you "important" to Jesus is that you serve selflessly, that you follow him ... that you do drink the cup that he will drink, under go the baptism with which he will be baptized ... that you will willingly follow the way of the cross, the way of the servant, that you will be obedient, as he is obedient.
What we believe is that as human beings God wants us to live into the fullness of life; as Christians we believe that the way to become truly human - to experience this fullness - is to follow Jesus.
And that means to follow him to Jerusalem, on the way to the cross, even as the disciples, oblivious as they were, were following Jesus. They went with him; what they expected, they did not get.
They had to give up what they expected, what they knew, for something greater, for a different kind of kingdom altogether from what they had expected, a different triumph, a different 'cup', a different 'baptism'.
The cup of salvation was the cup of suffering that Jesus drank freely - in the garden of Gethsemane he said, take this cup away from me: but he had already said, at the last supper with his friends that night before the soldiers came, this is the cup of my blood which is shed for you, and for many.
Will you share it?
The baptism was the baptism into and through death; through the rising from the waters of baptism we symbolically (at the least) re-enact his rising from the grave. He has conquered death; first of all, though, he went through it - and he went through it for us. In obedience to his Father, he underwent the grief and the pain and the suffering of an ignominious death. This kind of cruel death, crucifixion, was all too common in the Roman world. What was uncommon was that Jesus did it in obedient love.
He is the suffering servant, the one whom Isaiah proclaimed.
And we are his body - that we suffer too is not a sign that he has failed us; it is part of our humanity - that he shared. Jesus shared in our humanity - including our suffering - and redeemed us by his own taking upon himself of the pain he did not need to share. We share in his suffering - and his triumph.
We share in his joy. His cup. His baptism. And indeed in the kingdom of heaven we will sit beside him.
Perhaps not on his right and his left! that is not his to grant ... or ours to ask.
It is enough.
Francis foolishly asked (holy fool that he was) that he might know the pain and the joy that Jesus suffered on the cross; and his wish was granted, on the feast of the Holy Cross, September 14th, after which he could echo the epistle of that day, "from now on let no one bother me for I bear in my body the marks of our lord Jesus Christ." (Gal 6.17)