The Question of the Cup

Something is coming.

My awareness is shifting to the arrival of something extraordinary and this moment is blessed with anticipation.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Advent but hasn’t this whole year been a year of holy, grace-filled waiting? Pope Francis called it the Year of Faith and so it was as I became more intentional about my faith, more fully aware and in awe of God’s presence.

So what will come next?


The title of the passage is deceiving in its simplicity. “Jesus Prays in Gethsemane.” Sure, he prays. He prays hard for an answer from God, for relief that just won’t come. In the quiet of the garden, he is vulnerable and utterly human. The Son of Man indeed. And knowing that the cup set before him will not pass, Jesus readily drinks from it.

Henri Nouwen wrote a whole book about it, about the question that comes in the shape of a cup. The question with the power to “crack open a hardened heart and lay bare the tendons of the spiritual life.”

Can you drink from the cup?

Jesus asked the disciples and then God asked him and now He asks us.

Can we say yes to life? A life with God and all that it entails?

Because until faith is given hands to work and knees to kneel, we are merely talking about life with God. We are called as we are, where we are, but too often I use this to excuse a lack of action and I lapse into a kind of spiritual apathy. Does this mean packing up and leaving all to fight injustice or feed bodies more dead than alive? No. Still, I must drink from the cup.

And how long has the cup sat before me, patiently waiting for an answer? A whole lifetime? If so, then Brother Lawrence is right: “let us redeem the lost time, for perhaps we have but little left.”


The year to come will still be a year of faith but also a year of faith-work.

The cup, the question, it is always being posed to us but we have only so many days to give an answer.

And how else do I answer but through the living itself?


Here, the day before the beginning of Advent,  I read it again. How he kneels low in the garden, in the darkest dark. And he trusts what God gives. In this brief scene I see what a life with God can look like, the faith-believing and the faith-doing, and I find myself in Gethsemane too; a moment made eternal by a questioning cup.