Today we pray with the Church around the world as we recall the sign of God’s love through the death of Jesus on the Cross. May the Lord’s suffering and sacrifice open our hearts with gratitude as we reflect on what Christ has done for our eternal salvation.
What do you think is worth a personal sacrifice? What would you be willing to give up for someone or something you believe in?
We learn a lot about ourselves by what we are willing to sacrifice. Our values, personal convictions, and priorities all come into focus with the simple phrase:
Can I give that up?
We make sacrifices all the time. Some are simple, others complex; some are demanding while others are the act of a moment. Yet sacrifices reveal the depth of our hearts and our willingness to offer up our lives for something greater, something that we hold precious or valuable.
The thought that Abraham would be willing to offer up his only son – the child of God’s blessing to Sarah in her old age – strikes the modern hearer as barbaric and horrible. It is a crime against nature: that the innocent could suffer such atrocity sounds more like something from Hell, not Heaven.
Yet Jesus Christ, innocent and without sin, will die a brutal death on the Cross…for us. The atrocity that confronts us at Calvary reveals the value God places on our human souls – we are loved completely, entirely, and without thinking of the cost the Lord sacrifices his life to take our place for the evil we have done.
This is the power of the transfiguration in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus, revealed in all his glory with Moses and Elijah, is God’s “beloved Son.” Coming down from the mountain Peter, James, and John have no idea what lies ahead – they can only marvel at the awesome sight of Jesus as he stands in Heaven…the one who is honored for the sacrifice he makes.
Perhaps then, the real question for us pertains to those things to which we still cling. What priorities and values do we place higher than Christ? What is holding us back from embracing the Lord with all our heart? I suggest considering the following thoughts:
How does my use of TIME reveal my priorities?
How does my use of MONEY reveal my values?
How do I show the PEOPLE in my life that I love them?
How do I live my faith in GOD each and every day?
And if there are things that are keeping me from God & others….
The season of Lent offers a powerful opportunity for conversion, spiritual growth, and developing our relationships with the Lord and one another. However, I also know that this season has a way of sneaking up on us. Life moves fast, and we can get caught up in any number of tasks – missing the necessary preparation and perspective to get the most out of these 40 Days.
As a guide, I suggest starting with the “Fruits of the Spirit” that St. Paul writes about in his letter to the Galatians (5:22-23). They are:
First, do we see these in our lives? Are there people, situations, interactions, locations (home, work, school, community) where we see consistent evidence of their presence? If so, then how can we help them flourish and grow? How can we create more opportunities to allow the Spirit to work in our lives?
Second, are these absent in our lives? Or worse, are their opposites present? Is hatred, despair, turmoil, and the like alive in our hearts? If so, how can we make the necessary changes to allow the Spirit into our lives?
Now here’s how this gets practical. It is often customary during Lent to “do” something or “give up” something for these 40 days. How about this…
“Do” something that fosters the Fruits of the Spirit in my life.
“Give up” something that is in conflict with the Fruits of the Spirit.
Where do we look? Try this for starters…
WHAT we do – the Activity
WHO we do it with – the People
WHERE we do it – the Location
“Doing” can include any number of things:
Helping a neighbor, family member or friend – in a spirit of kindness and gentleness
Drawing near to people who are spiritually good – who make us more loving and peaceful
Spending time on activities that help us use God’s talents in a good and holy way
Concentrating our efforts on opportunities where we know that God is present
Being in locations and situations that foster a strong and healthy life
“Giving up” can look like this:
Is there anything destructive, harmful, unholy, or evil that needs to be removed?
Are there people who are leading us to harm or destruction?
Are there locations, situations, or circumstances that are unholy for us?
Using the “Fruits of the Spirit” as a measurement, we can quickly reveal the pattern of our lives. If it is spiritually fruitful, then we can strengthen this. If it is spiritually destructive, then perhaps this season of Lent gives us an opportunity to give it up and start directing our lives in better ways.
Furthermore, Lent has classic opportunities for Study, Prayer, and Service:
Study: Scripture, the Catechism, a Devotional, Spiritual Reading
Prayer: Mass, Confession, Rosary, Scripture, Devotions, Stations of the Cross
Service: at home, the neighborhood, the community, the Church
God keeps inviting, keeps forgiving, and keeps extending grace and mercy to all who seek it. Now is the time to get ready for a powerful Lent – where we turn to Jesus and allow His grace to transform our hearts. Give serious thought to what you can do to make this season special, and open your to heart to Jesus Christ.
What will you do? What will you give up? Make it a great Lent!
With the joy of Christ’s birth ringing in the air we celebrate today the death of St. Stephen, the first martyr. Why? To help us see the connection between the Christ’s birth and saving death as we offer our lives for the Lord. Thus, the Christmas spirit gives us hope to face the sacrifices of this life with the conviction that the Jesus Christ will guide and lead us to Heaven.
The Lord explains how Elijah returned in the person of John the Baptist, and then Jesus goes on to say how he will suffer just like John. As we draw near to the Feast of Christmas, we remember how God so loved the world he gave His only Son…to teach us how to offer our lives for one another.
How many times throughout our lives have we made the sign of the Cross? Stop and think: at Mass; meal prayers; morning & evening prayers; special gatherings; and moments of blessing and grace. This simple action, which we teach to children at an early age, invokes a connection with the passion of Jesus.
We adorn our homes with the Cross. A crucifix is a common gift to a new home; they are placed in bedrooms and common areas as a reminder that Jesus is the source of our help and strength.
We adorn ourselves with the Cross in many ways: a crucifix on a chain; a cross in our pocket; earrings; rings; bracelets; and all the extra cards, bookmarks, figurines, and miscellaneous items that remind us that Jesus died on a Cross.
The Paschal Mystery – the death and resurrection of Christ – speaks to the heart of our faith. Out of love for us God sent Jesus, who gave his life on the Cross that we might have eternal life. Through his suffering and death, we recognize that God has made a pathway possible that we might all journey through this life to the gates of Heaven.
The Cross teaches us many lessons:
* Life is difficult, and at times painful
* Weakness and sin are part of our experience
* God identifies with our pain
* God dies that we might have life
At the core of our teaching the Cross stands as the testament of God’s love for us. On one hand the Cross is an embarrassment – after all, why would God (all powerful, all knowing, supreme) choose to be humiliated? Does that not mean that God is weak? Why could God not take away our sins in a way that showed majesty and splendor?
Yet on the other hand, the Cross is a statement that God meets us where we are in life. In our weakness, in our humiliation, in our low moments of doubt and sin God comes to us. Jesus, like us in every way but sin, understands our pain because through his Cross he shares in the suffering of the world. He knows us, and loves us even more.
Every time we make the sign of the Cross may we recall what the Lord endured for us. May the Cross be our strength as we trust in God’s love, and may we seek to follow that love as we journey through this life toward the world to come.