By Henri J. M. Nouwen
Opening thoughts and basis for discussion
“Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink”, the question posed by Jesus Christ to his friends James and John, the sons of Zebedee. We must ask ourselves the very same question. Can we taste all of the bitter and sweet of life and still march forward?
Drinking wine is more than just drinking. It involves knowledge about what kind and year wine you are drinking and your ability to share information with others about what exactly is special about this wine? Similarly just living life is not enough. We must know what we are living. A life that is not reflected upon isn’t worth living.
Holding the Cup of Life
Poverty and wealth, success and failure, beauty and ugliness aren’t just facts of life. They are realities that are lived very differently by different people, depending on the way they are placed in the larger scheme of things.
Great courage is needed to take stock of our lives, review and then make changes for the better rather than accept the norm of what we are living for living sake.
Holding the cup of life is a hard discipline. We like to drink of life right away as we are a thirsty people but sometimes it is better to stop and examine what it is we are partaking of at that moment. Is what I am going to drink of good for me for my family? This question needs to be answered.
The Cup of Sorrow
We all experience sorry some to a greater to degree than others but we will all face some form of it in our lives. While no one wants to it is inevitable that it will happen. Usually we come out different people, stronger and more committed or we just give up and begin to flow in a different and not so good direction.
Priestly sorrow shared; parishioners struggles seen like no one else could see them. People who have to deal with others who have sorrow in their lives begin to refocus at least for a time on their own sorrow filled or dreams unfulfilled lives. These are the lives that no sermon, television show or quick fix will cure. Time doesn’t even cure them but faith in God can.
Holy Friday and Resurrection Sunday. There is always someone suffering more in the world than we are at any given moment. Does this make our suffering any less; of course not but it does put it into perspective. Whose cup then is this…it is my, yours, the worlds to drink of?
Reflection of reading this verse as a seminary student and now as a priest of over 30 years… I can tell you it is very different due to my life experiences as a man, husband, father, grandfather and priest.
Can any of us drink the cup of Jesus? We usually answer yes but have no idea what we are saying. The cups of sorrow for ourselves but what about the entire world? Cup full of physical, mental and spiritual anguish. It can be a cup of starvation, torture, loneliness, rejection, abandonment, and immense anguish. Just think of what He went through! How many of us could have done this?
Jesus as we know asked for the cup to pass so He would not have to suffer. He said, “My soul is sorrowful to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). His agony was so intense that “his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Nevertheless He pressed on. He possessed a trust beyond betrayal, surrender beyond despair, a love beyond all fears. He therefore is a model for us in our despair to not let the cup pass but to drink from it in full faith and knowledge of God’s love for us.