Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What do you thirst for?

July 25, 2017

Feast of Saint James, Apostle

Lectionary: 605

2 COR 4:7-15

PS 126:1BC-2AB, 2CD-3, 4-5, 6

MT 20:20-28

Our world has become one of comfort.   In the United States especially, we have become almost hedonistic in the way we view things.   We want our burgers our way, our food fast and also luxuriant, and our cars to have leather heated seats and automatic everything.  We avoid suffering at all costs.  Almost every home has an air conditioner, every car as well.  That hurts?  Take a pill.   Go to the doctor.  Get some narcotics.   Going through a rough patch?  Emotions out of control?  Throw some pills at them and get numb till you get past it.  Don’t get me wrong.  As a man with nerve damage and constant back pain, I take my share of medicine to sleep at night and get through the day.  But what about willingly giving up comfort?  Choosing to go hungry?  Turning off the air conditioner and sweating it out?

We tend to think of the cross as special moments, an occasional thing.  On the feast of Saint James, we are reminded that the cross is supposed to be a part of our lives, every single moment.  “Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.”  What does it mean then to be dying at all times?  To be constantly given up to death?  It’s not talking about being sick and ill for the sake of suffering, though that can become a beautiful life.   It’s talking about mortification.  Choosing to be hungry that others might eat.   Willfully suffering that another might have comfort.  Giving up this that they may have that.

During Lent, we are pretty good at that, though sometimes we just give up chocolate for 40 days and go right back to eating with no change in our lives.  Jesus reminds us to be servants to others.   That our goal is to drink the cup that He drank.  That our goal should be to be so in love with Christ that we will give up our dinner that someone we don’t even know might have theirs.   That we go into the coffee shop on Monday and buy a black cup of coffee for a dollar, instead of the double foam decaf chai mocha latte for $7.50 that we really want, but then we go further and give the $6.50 we saved away to someone else.  Someone in need.  It means willingly mortifying ourselves, to gain discipline and obedience, not to gain honor or glory.  

So the next time we approach that cup, that chalice at Mass filled with the precious Blood of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ; the next time that we look into the eyes of the minister who raises that cup of challenge up and says to us “The Blood of Christ”; that in that moment when we are about to respond “Amen.”; that is when Christ is saying to us: "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?"  That’s not a chalice that goes away on some days and comes back on another.  It’s a lifetime of mortification, a commitment to relieve the suffering of others, even at our own expense.  Without thought of reward, honor, or dignity for me, but only with the thought of the other.  Can I drink that cup?  Lord help me, because I want to say with John and James, “I can.”  I’m not strong enough on my own, so give me the grace to be more like you.
Mother Teresa taught that when Jesus said “I thirst” on the cross, He was thirsting for us.  For our love, our companionship.  That in His death, all He could think about was me.  This sinner who has hurt Him so many times in the past, was what consumed Him as He took His last breath.  When I do fast, I find that all I can think about is food.  I end up planning dinner for hours as I wait for that time to appear on the clock for me to be able to eat again.  I am consumed with it.   All other things seem overridden by that desire just to eat.  That’s how He felt about me.  Now He asks me to do the same… to take that cup into my heart and for me to go out and thirst for you… all of you, regardless if know you, like you or if you can do anything for me.  Are you ready to say that Amen? Think about that very carefully as you walk forward to receive Him at the next Mass you attend… what it truly means to stand up there in front of God and man and say “Amen.”  Then to go forth, to share that cup with the world.