If only we could have the confidence of James and John. “‘Are you able to drink the chalice that I am to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able’” (Mt 20:22). And lest we think that they don’t know what that chalice entails, this exchange comes immediately after Christ foretells his Passion for the third time. They know exactly what is about to come to Christ, and still they insist they can drink from his chalice.
Imagine if we could answer Christ with that confidence. If at every suffering presented to us, we could say, “I am able.” To most, it seems more like a far-fetched dream than a present reality. And yet, this is not the case. In all our sufferings we are able, precisely because of Christ. He endured the cross, so we can endure whatever crosses come our way. He endured temptation, so we can endure whatever temptations come our way. And this should encourage us, knowing that all things are possible in Christ.
This is precisely the sort of encouragement that I usually find myself needing around this time of Lent. Two weeks in, and your penances seem unbearable, and yet Easter is more than four weeks away. All you want is a piece of candy or a cup of coffee, and you still have to wait a whole month. Thinking about Christ’s passion makes these penance seem small. And knowing that he was tempted far beyond what I’m experiencing makes it that much easier to say, “I am able.”
And not only do we know that he was tempted far beyond our own experiences, but we can be united to him in our temptations. He overcame, now we can overcome. This is as true for whatever small penance we’ve given ourselves for Lent as it is for the sufferings that come to us unbidden. United with Christ on the cross, we are able to bear our sacrifices and sufferings, through the grace and strength that flows freely from his Passion.
So as we continue in this Lenten season, we must keep our eyes on the prize: the place the Father has prepared for us, if only we can drink from Christ’s chalice. Let us pray that in times of sacrifice and suffering, we can say with James and John, through the grace of God, “I am able.”