Ordinary Time 21, Year B-2009

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink? (Mt. 20:22)

Many disciples of Jesus found hard and unacceptable his saying about his flesh being true food and his blood true drink. For this reason, these “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”

Simon Peter, however, and the other apostles, did not leave Jesus. They readily acknowledged there was no one else they could go to who had the words of eternal life. They proclaimed their faith and conviction that he was the Holy One of God.

Such faith and conviction did not, of course, make things any less difficult for those who stayed with Jesus, anymore than Jesus’ complete communion with the Father made his obedience to the Father’s will any easier. Testifies St. Paul in warning precisely to those who would harbor the illusion that discipleship immediately means condition of ease and glory (1 Cor. 4:9-13):

For as I see it, God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all,
like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world,
to angels and human beings alike. We are fools on Christ’s account,
but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor,
but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad
and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands.
When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered,
we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all,
to this very moment.

It was not any less hard for St. Vincent de Paul either, notwithstanding that, following his own counsel, he adhered most closely to God by doing God’s will in his every action (cf. P. Coste XI, 317 at [1]). Getting Rome’s approval for the Congregation of the Mission, for example, apparently did not come easy. His first petition for approval was thought to “move beyond the meaning of the Mission and tend to establish a new religion” [2].

Nor was it less difficult for St. Justin de Jacobis. A brief biography of the saint reads [3]:

For the remaining eleven years until his death in 1860 Justin’s life was a series
of problems, harassment, persecution, and even a spell of imprisonment,
all originating in the opposition of the Orthodox Coptic bishop. With the exception
of one young confrere, Carlo Delmonte, all Justin’s fellow-Vincentians disagreed
with Justin’s missionary methods, especially with regard to indigenous clergy.
Even the confrere who was to be his coadjutor bishop, Lorenzo Biancheri,
who had the right of succession, said openly that when he succeeded Justin
he did not intend to continue Justin’s missionary methods, especially in the matter
of building up a body of indigenous clergy.

Similar painful rejections were endured as well in not so distant yesterday by Father Vincent Lebbe, C.M. [4], Archbishop Emilio Lissón. C.M. [5], and Archbishop Oscar Romero (cf. especially the section “Romero’s Development at [6]; see also [7]). And today, too, those who have decided to stay—those who are often victimized by a male domination whose sole focus is female subservience, losing sight of mutual subordination and of the fundamental lesson of the great mystery of Christ’s love for the Church—are not any less tested by fire. Of these is said [8]:

Even secular sociologists, but especially the laity who associate with these religious
and those they serve, have recognized that the joy and counter-intuitive confidence,
the capacity for work and suffering, the whole-hearted commitment to their own spiritual
lives and to the people to whom they minister, the unity and solidarity in community
that is evident in most women’s religious Congregations—given the enormity of the
challenges they confront—must be rooted in something, Someone, much deeper and more
central to their lives than anything temporal or material.

Clearly, communion with Jesus—impossible, of course, unless granted by the Father—and the bliss and ecstasy that come with it, supposes passion. Indeed, as Dietrich Bonhöffer wrote in 1937, “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” [9]. In other words, those who would stay with Jesus are expected to do as he did and be the living memorial of his giving his body up and shedding his blood for all.