Day 13 – Can You Drink the Cup? – Henri Nouwen

Day 13

Can You Drink the Cup?

Henri Nouwen

Somehow my life at Daybreak has given me eyes to discover joy where many others see only sorrow. Talking with a homeless man on a Toronto street doesn’t feel so frightening anymore. Soon money is not the main issue. It becomes: “Where are you from? Who are your friends? What is happening in your life?” Eyes meet, hands touch, and there isyes, often completely unexpected-a smile, a burst of laughter, and a true moment of joy. The sorrow is still there, but something has changed by my no longer standing in front of others but sitting with them and sharing a moment of togetherness.

And the immense suffering of the world? How can there be joy among the dying, the hungry, the prostitutes, the refugees and the prisoners? How does anyone dare to speak about joy in the face of the unspeakable human sorrows surrounding us?

And yet, it is there! For anyone who has the courage to enter our human sorrows deeply, there is a revelation of joy, hidden like a precious stone in the wall of a dark cave. I got a glimpse of that while living with a very poor family in Pamplona Alta, one of the “Young towns” at the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The poverty there was greater than any I had seen before, but when I think back on my three months with Pablo, Maria, and their children, my memories are filled with laughter, smiles, hugs, simple games, and long evenings just sitting around telling stories. Joy, real joy was there, not a joy based on success, progress, or the solution of their poverty, but bursting forth from the resilient human spirit, fully alive in the midst of all odds. And when Heather, the daughter of New York friends, recently returned from ten months’ relief work in Rwanda, she had seen more than despair. She had also seen hope, courage, love, trust, and true care. Her heart was deeply troubled, but not crushed. She has been able to continue her life in the United States with a greater commitment to work for peace and justice. The joys of living were stronger than the sorrows of death.

The cup of life is the cup of joy as much as it is the cup of sorrow. It is the cup in which sorrows and joys, sadness and gladness, mourning and dancing are never separated. If joys
could not be where sorrows are, the cup of life would never be drinkable. That is why we have to hold the cup in our hands and look carefully to see the joys hidden in our sorrows.
Can we look up to Jesus as to the man of joys? It seems impossible to see joy in the tortured, naked body hanging with outstretched arms on a wooden cross. Still, the cross of Jesus is often presented as a glorious throne on which the King is seated. There the body of Jesus is portrayed not as racked by flagellation and crucifixion but as a beautiful, luminous body with sacred wounds.

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