Jesus speaks for the third time to his disciples of his Passion and Death, and of his glorious Resurrection, while he is on his way to Jerusalem. At a halt on the road, near Jericho, a woman, the mother of James and John, comes to him to make a request on behalf of her sons. She prostrated herself, St. Matthew tells us, to make a petition to him. In all simplicity she said to Jesus: Command these my sons to sit in your kingdom, one on your right hand and one on your left1. The Lord answered him immediately, "You do not know what you are asking; are you able to drink the cup that I shall drink? They said, "We can.
The two brothers must not have understood much, for a little earlier, when Jesus spoke of the Passion, St. Luke says: They did not understand any of these things; on the contrary, it was an unknown language to them, and they did not understand what he said to them.
It is difficult to understand the language of the Cross. Yet they are willing, if only with a general intention, to will all that Jesus wills. They had set no limit for their Lord; neither have we. Therefore, when we ask for something in our prayer we must be ready to accept, above all else, the Will of God; also, when it does not coincide with our desires. His Majesty," says St. Therese, "knows best what is best for us; there is no reason to advise him what to give us, for he can rightly say that we do not know what we are asking for. He wants us to ask him for what we need and desire, but above all, he wants us to conform our will to his will. He will always give us the best.
John and James ask for a place of honor in the new kingdom, and Jesus speaks to them about redemption. He asks them if they are willing to suffer with him. He uses the Hebrew image of the chalice, which symbolizes God's will for a man. The Lord's is a bitter cup that will become a cup of blessing6 for all men.
To drink the cup of another was the sign of a deep friendship and the willingness to share a common destiny. To this close participation the Lord invites those who want to follow him. To participate in his glorious Resurrection it is necessary to share with him the Cross. Are you willing to suffer with me? Can you drink my cup with me? We are able, those two Apostles answered him.
James died a few years later, beheaded by order of Herod Agrippa. St. John endured countless sufferings and persecutions for love of his Lord.
"He also calls us and asks us, as he did James and John: Potestis bibere calicem quem ego bibiturus sum (Mt 20:22): Are you willing to drink the cup - this cup of complete surrender to the fulfillment of the Father's will - that I am about to drink? Possumus (Mt 20:22); Yes, we are willing, is the answer of John and James. Are you and I seriously disposed to fulfill, in everything, the will of our Father God? Have we given our whole heart to the Lord, or are we still attached to ourselves, to our interests, to our comfort, to our self-love? Is there something that does not correspond to our condition as Christians, and that makes us not want to purify ourselves? Today we have the opportunity to rectify it ".