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Saturday, June 6, 2015

What's a sacrifice?


Today's readings don't make much sense without an understanding of religious sacrifice, in both the Jewish and the Christian sense.
I think our culture has a difficult time with the meaning of sacrifice.  We don't get it.  We can't understand what it means, because we have been forced slowly over time to think of everything in this world in view of science and economics.  We have forgotten what is most human about us: free will and love.  And that's the only way to understand sacrifice: it comes down to freely choosing to love another person more than yourself.  Science can't explain love, because choice is beyond biology and psychology.  Economics would say love too often entails a waste of resources and therefore doesn't make sense.  But sacrifice is beautiful and is more human than almost anything that we do.  In fact, we do it more often than we think.

Athletes sacrifice all kinds of good foods, and go through often intense physical pain, in order to be in the best shape possible.  Musicians and Scholars sacrifice hours and hours of time, often losing sleep and certainly going through emotional turmoil at times, all in order to excel.  We sometimes sacrifice the wrong things, like when we choose being busy about many things instead resting on Sundays and going to church.  Sometimes we sacrifice the peace that comes from daily prayer for the false peace of a TV show.

Today I just witnessed a wonderful sacrifice.  Four men, out of love for Jesus and the rest of the Body of Christ (including you), freely chose to give up careers, personal ambitions, and the comfort of family life, so that they could love with the heart of Jesus.

But the only reason their sacrifice makes sense, is because of the Cross.

After they made solemn promises to the bishop and and were ordained, their hands were anointed and they were handed the chalice and paten.  Bishop then said to them:
Understand what you do; imitate what you celebrate; and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord's Cross.

The priest is called to make the Mass, which is a Sacrifice, the center of his life.  Not simply for himself, but for the people.  All of us are called to make the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the center of our lives, because if we want to be truly human, then we gotta know how to live sacrifice; and if we want to live sacrifice, then we have to be connected to the Cross; and if we want to be connected to the Cross, we have to be connected to the Mass.  So one question we can ask ourselves is, "how do I make the (Sunday) Mass the center of my life?"

A generation or two ago it would be common for catholics to hear the phrase, "offer it up," in reference to the difficulties that life brings.  That's what we were called to do with our sacrifices: to bind them to the cross of Jesus and offer them up to the Heavenly Father as He offered Himself up for us.  Then our sufferings become sacrifices.  Then our lives are truly Eucharistic, because we are living the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Lord Jesus, help us bring ourselves, with all our sufferings and pains, to Mass every Sunday so that we can love you more fully and be transformed by the gift you give us in your Body and Blood.

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