July 22, 2012 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Mark 14:22-23 While they were eating, He took bread, and after a blessing, He broke and gave to them, and said, ―Take, this is My body.‖ And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave to them, and they all drank from it.

The readings this week focus on the humiliation and suffering sacrifice of Jesus – the scourging, betrayal and denial of our Lord, the pain he experienced on behalf of our sinfulness. It is easy to get swallowed up in the agony, to walk away with guilt for our part in His suffering or judgment of those who refuse to accept Christ’s sacrifice. Yet, if we fall to what is easy, we would miss what is truly compelling and truly essential — the joy behind the sacrifice.

There are two points I would like to draw out in these readings. First, Jesus isn’t taken into captivity – He chooses it. This was an intentional act of sacrifice, not an incidental event of poor luck or bad planning. Christ put himself into this position – He didn’t find Himself in it. He was not taken – He gave himself away. Christ was not humiliated by His capture. He chose humility and allowed himself to be arrested. I often told inmates, when I was a prison chaplain, ―There’s a thin line between humility and humiliation — the difference is choice. We can choose humility or be humiliated.‖ Each day, each one of us has the option to choose between humility and pride; to look down on others or look forward with them. Jesus chooses humility, looking forward to our restoration.

The second point is found in the above verses. Three simple words from verse 23, ―and given thanks.‖ In all the Gospels, Jesus gives thanks….but under very unique circumstances. He breaks the bread, saying, ―This is My body,‖ and then gives thanks. He pours out the wine saying, ―This is My blood,‖ and then gives thanks [Luke 22:19-20]. He knew everything that lay ahead that tortuous night and into the next day. The betrayal, the denial, the suffering and the death — and then He gave thanks. For what can He possibly be thankful? Our Lord — who chooses humility — is thankful to be broken and poured out for us. That word, ―thankful,‖ in Greek, is Eucharisteo, and it means, ―perfect thankfulness‖. Jesus was perfectly thankful to give Himself for us.

Christ only had one commandment. ―Love one another as I have loved you [John 13:34].‖ Jesus invites us to be humble, perfectly grateful servants of one another. We are to be perfect in thankfulness, humble, so we can give ourselves to others — especially to the least accepted and the most rejected. Have you ever known someone who did that for you? Someone willing to stand up for you when no one else would? Someone who believed in you even when you didn’t believe in yourself? That person was Eucharisteo to you. When we understand that Jesus chose humility and allowed Himself to be broken and poured out for us — all of us — how can we help but respond with gratitude, humility and service? Let’s not get lost in the suffering, but in the joy within. This is not the path to suffering. It is the path to joy — even in the midst of suffering – where we choose something greater than our immediate comfort, wants or mood. This is a life worth living and even… a death worth dying.

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