Faith, Suffering and Service

HOMILY WEEK 02 03 – Year II

Faith, Suffering and Service

(Jer18:18-20; Ps 31; Mt 20:17-28)


Activist Daniel Berrigan once stated that before deciding to follow Jesus, we should consider how good we look on wood!

The message from today’s readings is simple and straightforward: following Jesus will involve suffering and service.

This is not your usual promo for a career. Jesus doesn’t offer any perks or career advancement benefits. He proclaims right up front that he himself, the Son of Man and Son of God, did not come to be served but to serve, and not only that – he goes all the way and gives his life as a ransom for all of humanity.

Yet that call to total commitment is itself the best and proven way to live a life that is full of meaning, purpose and fulfillment. There is no life better lived, then to give one’s life for the highest of all causes, and there is no higher cause than following Jesus.

The suffering that a disciple is called to is redemptive suffering – connected to the suffering of Jesus, and borne as Jesus bore his suffering, without resentment or bitterness, forgiving those who were crucifying him. It is this kind of suffering that will help build up the reign of God here on earth.

The service that we are called to, is to offer our time, talent and treasure, to use our God-given gifts to make the world a better place, to build up the reign of God here on earth. St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta’s advice is helpful here: “What we would like to do for Jesus, whom we cannot see, we can do to the person next to us, whom we can see, and we will be doing it to Jesus.”

Drinking from a cup in our society is usually associated with victory, triumph and glory: Stanley Cup, Grey Cup, trophy cup. It was just the opposite for Jesus – the cup of humiliation and suffering. When the mother of sons of Zebedee wants glory for them at Jesus’ right and left, Jesus asks them if they can drink his cup. They naively affirm they can, and Jesus says it will come to them – but they may not get the glory.

Jesus in the garden, prayed that the Father would let a cup pass him by – the cup of humiliation and crucifixion. Crucifixion was designed to inflict maximum pain and humiliation on the victim, with everything exposed, naked before the world. For Jesus, there was no end run – he went through his suffering with forgiveness, that was his glory.

Suffering will come to us – it us up to us if it will lead to bitterness or glory. The glory follows from a heart that is able to forgive. The cup for Jesus is what makes us deep – our depth of character comes from our struggle and suffering, which can make us bitter or better. Faith assures it will make us better.

The Eucharist makes present the sacrificial love of Jesus on the cross, and also empowers us to go out and live Calvary in slow motion by accepting some suffering in our lives without bitterness or resentment, and living lives of service to all of humanity.


Updated: February 28, 2024 — 4:35 am

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