A Larger Cup
Fifth Sunday of Easter 2023
The scene: the Last Supper.
After foretelling Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial
(which put a real damper on dinner!), Christ consoles the apostles.
As Matthew Henry, the late-17th, early-18th-century Presbyterian minister,
The Lord Jesus is acquainted with all our secret undiscovered sorrows, with the wound that bleeds inwardly; he knows not only how we are afflicted, but how we stand affected under our afflictions, and how near they lie to our hearts; He takes cognizance of all the trouble with which we are at any time in danger of being overwhelmed; He knows our souls in adversity.
And what is the remedy to such sorrow and affliction, trouble and adversity?
Faith—which, by the way, is not magical thinking.
To be more precise, the remedy is Christ
to whom we are bound by and in faith.
Faith, however, is a gift that is only freely exercised.
There is no pressure in faith because there is no pressure in true love.
Hence, Jesus’ appeal to believing.
“Please make use of this gift”, Jesus asks,
for immeasurable closeness follows.
Upon appealing to faith,
Jesus reveals Himself, with illuminating vulnerability:
Believe in God, believe also in me.
In other words, believe in me as you believe in God. Believe in me, God.
And He reveals: because He is the God-man, God-become-human, we have
a unique dwelling in the Father’s house, our home in the mystery of God.
I will…take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
I will, I promise: today, tomorrow, when you die, at my Second Coming.
Jesus reassuringly and forcefully proclaims,
I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
Which is not a declaration of exclusivity but of divinity.
The identity, the oneness (yet distinction) between Son and Father,
is, of course, beyond immediate grasp—for Philip, and for us!
Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.
Jesus, the Son, God incarnate, although distinct,
in His perfect oneness with the Father,
I am in the Father and the Father is in me
perfectly reveals the Father.
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
Now, what is meant by many dwelling places?
Although Three Persons, one God,
and so really just one dwelling “place”, no?
Well, yes and no.
God is our home: one dwelling--beyond place, of course.
But we each have a personal relationship, distinct one from the other.
And, although we shall all be perfectly happy in God,
and thus no jealous comparison, like that which bedevils us here on earth,
there are degrees of intensity in the participation in the life of the one God.
Which is not a question of predestination favouritism, but of free choice.
St. Thomas Aquinas (I know, again!), in his commentary on this passage, says,
It is like a spring of water, available to all to take as much as they wish. Then, one who has a larger cup will receive more, and one who has a smaller cup will receive less. Therefore, there is one fountain, considering it in itself, but every one does not receive the same portion.
He goes on to say,
One who has a more burning love for God
will find more delight in the enjoyment of God.
Our journey here on earth is about increasing the size of the cup,
about expanding our hearts, so that we delight as much as possible,
in the enjoyment of God for all eternity.
And, although ultimately a gift, this is our responsibility, our free choice.
How do we increase the size of the cup?
A simple inner act, repeated, whereby God takes hold of our hearts:
And, from desiring, not feeling, seeking to love in action, seizing
the opportunities, big and small, that God brings across our path each day.
It is daunting and it is hopeful.
These inner acts of love, which we seek to translate into action,
are the works that are greater than those of Christ.
The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do
and, in fact, will do greater works than these.
No one, of course, can do works greater than those of Christ.
He seems to refer to Him working through us, spreading His love,
in new expressions.
Jesus has gone to the Father in His humanity.
His Body, the Church, which we are, is a wondrous sacrament
for God to so love the world.
Hence the words of the 16th-century Spanish mystic, Saint Teresa of Avila,
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Time to desire. Time to believe. Time to act.