‘Can you drink the cup that I drink? Can you be baptized with the baptism which I am baptized?’ (Mk 10:38). These are Jesus’ words to his disciples and to each of us, his ‘would-be’ disciples’. These two questions of Jesus are in response to the favor James and John are asking, the desire for personal glory. In one sense or at one level there is nothing ‘wrong’ per se with this desire. It comes down to the motivation of the heart, does it not? Is this desire for ‘me’, to build myself up? Our egocentric self is always quick to put ‘me’ at the center. Or is it for the glory of God, to serve God before everything else?
We have made our public commitment to God at our monastic profession. However, to have this commitment reach its fulfillment we daily have to re-affirm our ‘yes’, and then to embody this ‘yes’ in our lived lives. This is no small order because it is daily! With the gospel reading of this Sunday, then, can we each day pray: ‘yes, I can and will drink the cup of salvation and yes, I can and will be baptized with the baptism you are baptized, dear Lord’. We say this out of a living faith because we do not know what the cup will hold for each of us and for our community (the two are not separate)…nor do we know what each baptism will ask…baptism in this gospel text is a metaphor and at its core meaning is about surrender: surrender to the will of God, surrendering my willfulness so that it is transformed into willingness, a willingness that expands the heart and mind enabling one to serve with joy.
Sunday’s gospel ends with the statement: ‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mk 10:45). It is my sense that this is the ‘key’ to understanding the first part of the gospel: that to be at Jesus’ right or left side is a gift given out of service…Is this not true, that one life lived, truly and authentically, lived in self-less service becomes a ‘ransom’ for others? In other words, this profound witness holds the possibility to free others from their bondage or it offers others freedom or, it opens the door to freedom. As we serve, rooted in Christ, his life freely given, gives us the courage to do the same…so the reign of God spreads: the reign of love, mercy, and forgiveness.
How does the consciousness of Christ expand? How does the body of Christ become a powerful force of transformation and healing? In, with and through Christ we drink the cup given us; we willingly go down into the baptismal waters where our hearts are converted so that we become authentic vessels for proclaiming God’s word of life. Abbot Joseph was such a witness. These words from Tsokuyi Rimpoche quoted in a card to Joseph from our Sr. Veronique I read to him on Monday: “Life begins with love, is maintained with love, and ends with love”. Joseph lived these words as fully as any human person can in this life. He was a person of deep faith…No matter what was before him, his demeanor was always one of hope, his presence uplifting. Now we have an advocate for us that we can lean on as we strive to walk as Jesus walked, running “on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (RB, Prologue: 49).