Last week’s Gospel passage should have given us a little hint. In it, Jesus says, “there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” With the promise of all of the good stuff, Jesus almost seems to have subtly slipped in that word “persecutions.” The Christian life is certainly not always smooth sailing.
Our readings today go to the heart of Jesus’ mission. “Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.” “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Out of love for all humanity, Christ offered Himself to the Father for our sins through His saving Passion and death. He was both priest and victim on the altar of the Cross. This is the cup that He drinks, the baptism with which He is baptized; it is the heart of Jesus’ mission. And as disciples of Jesus, it is the heart of our mission as well: “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” To follow Christ/to live life in Christ/to be united with Christ means to share in His sacrifice and suffering for others.
But let’s face it, this can be tough to swallow. We don’t really like to hear about it. It seems like too much of a downer. But in a variety of ways, brothers & sisters, we live it already. Most of us don’t have to go looking for sacrifice or suffering. We already know about sacrifice and suffering for another. Certainly marriage and family life involves sacrificing for the sake of others, and without it they don’t work. There are those who try to live and grow in faith in a world that is forgetful of, or even hostile to, God. There are those who work thankless jobs, those who are struggling to take care of both children and elderly parents, those who have responded to the challenge of trying to resolve problems in the community. These are just a few examples of things that reflect God’s own self-giving love.
Any kind of service brings some sacrifice. Now, it can seem easy or natural when it’s something that we choose, but when it’s something unexpected or unwanted, or something that is more difficult to bear, then we’re sometimes tempted to wonder what God is doing, or to think that God doesn’t understand us or doesn’t even like us. But as we heard in the letter to the Hebrews, “Brothers and sisters: Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession [to our faith]. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”
God does more than understand. Out of love for us, He sent His Son to be united with us and show us the way. It is a way that’s not always going to be pleasant, of course, but is the way of salvation. Ultimately, yes, it’s not about suffering and death but newness of life. But are we able to trust in the power of the Resurrection? Are we willing to trust that walking with Christ will lead us in the end from sacrifice to wholeness, from hardship to glory?
In the gift of the Eucharist, we participate in Christ’s free offering of His life. We receive the Body given up for you; we receive the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant, shed so that sins may be forgiven; we enter into the Paschal Mystery of Christ.
Today we are brought to the heart of Jesus’ mission—and as disciples of Jesus, it is the heart of our mission as well. With all that we carry with us today (whatever it may be), let us offer it and unite it to Christ. And with the grace and power and glory that comes from God alone, let us go in peace.
©2017 St. Peters Catholic Church Huron Ohio.
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