29th Sunday In Ordinary Time “B”
World Mission Sunday
You know, one of the images the Bible uses for life is that of a cup. And, just as a cup can be filled with a bitter-sweet drink, so the life of each of us could be said to be a mixture of the sweet and the bitter.
Isn’t it so that there are times when the cup of our life is full of bitterness. It may be so bitter that we don't want to drink it, or feel we are not able to drink it.
But at other times the cup may be over-flowing with sweetness. At such times we can't get enough of it. And at still other times the cup may be flat and tasteless. Finally, there may be times when the cup of life seems to be empty.
In today’s Gospel James and John came to Jesus with a very selfish request. They asked that one of them be allowed to sit at His right hand and the other at His left hand in His kingdom. They obviously thought that Jesus' kingdom would be just like the other worldly kingdoms. In those kingdoms those in high places would enjoy honour, glory, and power.
How did Jesus answer them? Jesus answered by asking them a question: 'Can you drink the cup that I am to drink?' Thinking that it would be a very sweet cup they immediately said that they could.
But what Jesus was really asking the two disciples was, 'Are you willing to go through the suffering that I am going to go through?'
This is no easy thing — to drink a cup of sacrifice and suffering. In fact, when the time came for Jesus Himself to drink it, He seemed to shrink from it. Three times He asked the Father to remove it from Him: 'Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me' (Mt 26:39). But then He added, 'Yet not My will but Thine be done.' And then He did drink it, all of it.
The apostles didn't know at this time that the Lord's cup would be a very bitter one. Nor did they know their own weakness. So when the time came, rather than drinking the cup with Him, most of them left Him, and He had to drink the bitter cup alone.
In our own lives, we don't know in advance what the cup of life holds for us. We just find out as we go along.
Jesus, the Innocent One, chose to drink a very bitter cup. But, as we have seen, even He didn't find it easy. Yet He drank it to the very bottom. And He did so out of love for us. Love can make a bitter cup drinkable. (So can dire necessity – if you think of a bitter tasting medicine that must be drunk to be cured.)
It is love and dire necessity that makes our missionaries respond to the call to preach the gospel to drink the cup of life in far off places.
As we celebrate world mission Sunday today, we are reminded that the call to follow Christ “in mission” extends not only to missionaries but to ourselves also. Our call to follow Christ extends beyond sharing our faith and fortune with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues. This call extends to all peoples or, as Jesus said, even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Only a few of us may be called and sent by the Church to serve as Missionaries overseas. And here we think of our own Father Kaz and other priest missionaries like him who have left home and country to serve God in foreign lands.
We think also of sisters such as Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity in India and others like them in Africa and the jungles of South America. We think also of those lay missionaries who have shared their time, talent and money working in missions overseas.
People like Del and Agnes Reider who for many years have served and helped the poor in far off countries.
And there are many others. You know them. But the reality is that most of us say “Yes” to our missionary vocation by staying at home and sharing the burden by way of prayer, personal sacrifice and financial support.
The first way that we can be a missionary and help our missionaries on the front line is through our prayers. Everything that we do in the name of the Lord is based on our connection with God through our prayers.
Today, we pray for all who serve the Lord in the missions through their missionary tasks. We also pray for the people that these missionaries are inviting to Christ through their words and their witness to His love. They do this by their teaching and healing, their care for the elderly and the orphans. They are there in person. We are with them in prayer.
Another way that we can support them is by personal sacrifice. Our personal sacrifice joins us in a unique way with Christ and with the Missions. We all have burdens, trials and anxieties. Even as we struggle under the crosses in our lives and drink the sometimes bitter cup of life, we can offer these trials and sufferings in union with Christ on the Cross for missionaries and for those that they serve.
Finally we can help by our financial support. And this is also most essential. Here is how we might understand the importance of today’s World Mission Sunday collection.
What is provided to the Missions today – by us and by all Catholics around the world, even those in the missions – is as critical to the missionary work of the church as the weekly collection is to our own parish. This collection for the missions is the basic lifeblood of some 1,150 mission dioceses.
Think about it. Can those missionary sisters really be sent to an isolated village in Ghana or Tanzania to teach and care for the sick without our support? Can a catechist be trained for a mission in India without our support? Can a priest travel 50 rough kilometers to say Mass at a mission in South America without our support?
In a very real way, we are the ones whom Jesus is asking to share from our plenty in order to help support these efforts to spread the good news to the very ends of the earth. Saying “Yes” to Jesus makes these missionary efforts possible.
Like the priest in Africa, the sisters in India, and the lay missionary worker in the far off jungle, it is our mission to move ourselves, at least in spirit, to those far off places to call others to Christ. Like the missionary priests, sisters and lay people, it’s our vocation to make ourselves instruments of Christ’s peace, touching even the ends of today’s broken world.
Yes, it is our calling to show Jesus to the poor, the poor of all the world and to invite them to live in that same faith which brings us all here today to share the Eucharist.
Though Jesus was without sin, He experienced weakness and temptation as we do. He understands our weakness. Hence, we should approach Him with confidence, knowing that He can and will help us to drink this cup.
If we find the cup of life particularly bitter, there is no need for us to pretend that it is sweet, or to think that we can drink it by our own strength.
Unlike the two apostles, let us not be afraid or ashamed to say, “No, Lord, I can't drink it. I don't want to drink it. But if I have to, then with your help I will. Let Your will be done – not mine.”
To drink the cup of life, especially a cup made difficult by a life of sacrifice and service to others, is to follow Christ. But those who share the bitterness of His cross will also share the sweetness of His Easter victory.
May God inspire us to be generous today in sharing that abundance of gifts that God has seen fit to shower upon us.
Following His example, let us drink this cup with Jesus. Let us help to spread the Good news and share our wealth to help the poor. It is Jesus, after all, who asks us to drink this cup.
Will we share with our missionaries or will we let them drink the bitter cup alone?
God Bless You,
Deacon Bernie Ouellette