Can you drink of the chalice?
This morning pilgrims starting from the North American College were blessed with clear skies for a relatively short trek to San Cecilia. The church, found in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, literally “across the Tiber” from the ancient city of Rome, is located just at the bottom of the Janiculum Hill. Excavations under the church suggest that it is built over the baths of St. Cecilia’s home, where Roman authorities first tried to execute her by drowning. Failing to do so, executioners attempted to decapitate the saintly woman, but failed again, ultimately leaving St. Cecilia to die of her fatal wounds. Tradition holds that prior to dying she entrusted all her goods to the church and asked Pope Urban to turn her home into a place of worship.
St. Cecilia gives great witness to Christ’s question in the Gospel, “Can you drink of the chalice I am going to drink?” As today’ celebrant noted in his homily, the sons of Zebedee enthusiastically replied “yes” to Christ’s question out of sheer love and devotion for Our Lord, but perhaps without a full understanding of the questions implications. In the case of St. Cecilia, who likewise replied yes, it might be said that she did so with greater awareness of the implications to her response. She was seeking to live the Christian life at a time when it was an illegal religion and fully aware that it could be punishable by death.
Throughout the centuries various men and women, lay, religious and cleric, have responded yes to Christ’s question and have aided in passing on the faith from generation to generation. As such, the faith has come down to each one of us. Having received that faith, Our Lord now poses the question to each of us, Can you drink of the chalice I am going to drink?
This season of Lent offers us an opportunity to reflect on our readiness to drink from Christ’s chalice in witness to the faith. The season gives us a chance to strengthen ourselves by turning to God and seeking to keep a proper relationship with the world and those around us through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These practices deepen and fortify us interiorly so we can give public witness to our faith in ordinary and extraordinary ways; to live our faith in such a way that others will take notice. Doing so, we will express our desire to drink from Christ’s chalice.
Written by Francisco Aguirre