Day 15: A Cup of Holy Frustration

BY ELISE GOWER | March 16, 2022
Today’s Readings

Today’s Gospel theme is, fittingly, frustration. The saying goes, “What would Jesus do?” And while Matthew invites us to explore that more deeply, I find myself pondering a different question, “What did the disciples do?” Sometimes this helps me make sense of my very human responses to things like the pandemics of racism and Covid, or my own resistance to growth and change. Of course, I prayerfully work towards a life more holy, more rooted in the desire to be Christ-like. But, when I start with the disciples, I become aware that Jesus invites me to wholeness; to leadership.

I can feel the disciples’ frustration. They’re afraid. Jesus is not only sharing that he will die, but describes his pain, suffering and crucifixion. I imagine being a disciple, hearing this:  

I’ve left everything to follow this man—my job, my family, my comfort! And now, I’m going to lose him? And who is this mother making this request on behalf of her sons?! 

The passage says, “When the ten heard this, they became indignant.” Frustrated.

A Cup of Holy Frustration

Jesus asks, “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” This is a big ask, knowing his impending execution—a death that holds the sin of a society that resists and terrorizes what they fear. We see this all too often. Suddenly, following Jesus takes on a whole new meaning. Am I willing to give of myself, completely, in response to the realities of our world today—not just when it’s comfortable or convenient? To lead is to act against the grain.

Contemplative Leaders in Action is a spirituality and leadership formation program. Our curriculum moves young adults through a process of discerning and enacting Ignatian leadership. This Gospel offers a pretty profound definition of what this is—drinking from the same cup as Jesus. A cup of holy frustration. Drinking this cup demands a daily commitment; sometimes, minute by minute. It’s not performative allyship. It’s not the kind of advocacy that also ensures my privileges remain intact. It’s looking within before righteously blaming others. This Lent, will you drink this cup of holy frustration, to follow Jesus towards new life?

For Reflection: 

  • Imagine yourself, a disciple in today’s society. What tires and frustrates you?
  • What does drinking from the same cup as Jesus look like today?
  • Where are you called to deepen your commitment? 
13 replies
  1. Robert
    Robert says:

    Why are writers still proclaiming a lie every time they write about this and other passages from the bible.Jesus never used or referred to a Chalice in this passage or at the Last Supper. Jesus used a cup, he drink from a cup. He the the cup and looking up to heaven . We know the rest of the story. Talk and print the truth we as Catholics otherwise profess a lie every time we attend mass and the priest say “ when supper was ended he took the chalice “ there was no chalice just plain and simple cups.

    • Karen Moscato
      Karen Moscato says:

      I hear you but you haven’t explained why this is such a big frustration for you? Will chalice to cup change our responsibilities as disciples? Will drinking from a cup or a chalice magically change our hearts? Please share more on why this is such a painful thing, thank you for sharing your frustration.

  2. Nadia Ramoutar
    Nadia Ramoutar says:

    Thank you for this article during a time of frustration in the world. I think this is a great question to ask when some of us may be frustrated by Covid which I recently finally got or by watching the atrocities in Ukraine or the numbers of children trafficked in slavery. We do need the reminder that frustration was the experience of Jesus’ final days and much of his mission work. I appreciate the reminder. It is easy to think that this mission work is “good” and should be easy.

  3. Stella Envulu
    Stella Envulu says:

    I am called to unite my life with that of Jesus, embrace the little crosses of life, listen to him and walk in his ways.

  4. Dr Eileen Quinn Knight
    Dr Eileen Quinn Knight says:

    To me, after the pandemic, the frustration comes from people not returning to pray with all of us. As far as I know they might all be on live-stream and fervently praying in their homes or cars or wherever people have a proclivity for. I like seeing people, I like hearing people and it doesn’t make any difference to me that they are not that great in singing. God loves all voices. I like the intensity of their words and their physical disposition…all on behalf of the Holy Spirit who fills our hearts with his love. So here and now, I am begging all of you to return and be with us in prayer and Communion. Wear a mak, don’t wear a mask, we bring God’s love to the world we inhabit. Our physical disposition is to alleviate the angst of others by being there with them. Ask the person next to you:” What did you pray for?” When the person tells you, let the person know you will pray with him until the prayer is answered. We know God is with us and we want the kingdom of God to be praying with us also in all the parishioners who join us.

    • Christine
      Christine says:

      Dr. Eileen,
      I’m sorry but your comment reflects a self centeredness. After professionally ministering in the Catholic Church for 40 years, I found that my relationship grew by leaps and bounds during the pandemic. I have not returned to in person Church. Frankly, my health is more important than your desire to “ see” other people. There is a lot we still don’t know about this virus and the variants. I have long suspected that the call to folks to come back into the building has been motivated more by the need for the collection income, than a concern for our health. My faith doesn’t depend on entering a building. Church is being united in prayer and faith with fellow Christians and Our Lord.

  5. Karen Moscato
    Karen Moscato says:

    I am frustrated that I can’t stop the war in Ukraine. It pains me every day to see the utter destruction of people and land. They are drinking from the cup… so my prayer is as a disciple, what more can I do to be a peacemaker? What cup can I drink from to stand against war, divisions and hate? I must lose my ego, drink from my cup and continue in prayer and peace to bring Justice to an unjust world.

  6. Betty Flynn
    Betty Flynn says:

    I responded very personally to today’s reflection about Holy Frustration because I was feeling very frustrated at the time. While visiting our son in San Francisco I suffered a knee injury. A X-ray and a a MRI revealed a Grade 2 torn meniscus and sprained MCL, and the doctor prescribed 6-8 weeks of physical therapy to treat this injury. After only 5 PT sessions, I am returning to New York and had planned to complete the PT there. When I called my primary care physician in NY this morning, asking her to issue a prescription for PT, it proved to be very difficult. I was greatly frustrated and feeling “dismissed.” In thinking about this, I realized that there are many people throughout the world for whom the feeling of being dismissed is often a daily event due to poverty, racism, and violence. Upon reading the reflection, I recognized “my privilege” in contrast to the experience of the poor, the refugees, the homeless, the oppressed. Suffering is part of life, and more and more I believe the words of Jesus to his disciples, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” I am grateful that God has once more reminded me of this.

  7. Dr.Cajetan Coelho
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    Thanks Elise for this challenging stuff. ‘We carry the chapel in our heart’ – was often said by the late Adolfo Nicolás Pachón (29 April 1936 – 20 May 2020). Long live the memory of his wise thoughts, and empowering words.

  8. sonja
    sonja says:

    The Bible is full of allegories. Each reading brings new insights. When lockdown began I took hope from Jerusalem by Blake. That was also written in allegories and can be read on several different levels. Knowing that others have taken a stand for issues important to them, inspires me to take a stand now. It is just as important to fight for the rights of the poor and migrants to have a job today, as it was in the past for women to fight for the vote, catholics to be allowed to attend universities, the abolition of slavery and desegregation. Big changes happen at the grass roots and then the laws change to accomodate the people. May we pray for fear to be transformed by our love through service. So that the world may see there is a God who cares for the least of our brothers and sisters.


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