The world needs the gift of sacrifice

By Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR –

(A reflection from his book “Fatima and the Triumph of Mary.”)

Imagine living in a world where there was no love. There would be no caring, no sharing, no forgetfulness of one’s self in reaching out to others. It would be a very cold and hard world. The reason is that love is the key to bringing joy and peace to other people. But love, to be true and lasting, requires an ability to forget one’s self. This is why St. Therese, the Little Flower, in her great wisdom said, “The food of real love is sacrifice.” And because the world today seems to be filling up more and more with selfishness and a narcissistic preoccupation with one’s own pleasure and comfort, it seems the world needs sacrifice now more than in any other time in history.

Sacrifice can take many forms, but it always has as its primary element the act of giving up or surrendering something or someone. In the New Testament, Jesus is our Eternal High Priest. St. Paul tells us that as man He is the mediator between the Trinity and the Church (1 Tim 2:4-5). As a priest, He offered a sacrifice to take away our sins. But He was also the victim who was offered as the price of our redemption. This is why we call Jesus’ saving death the sacrifice of the cross. This is why we also refer to its sacramental renewal in the Mass as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In our vocation as Christians, we are called to give ourselves in sacrifice as well. We first give ourselves to the Lord by spending our lives, not on selfish pursuits, but in honoring Him by doing His will in all things. We also then are called to sacrifice ourselves on behalf of our neighbor. At times, it may cost us a great deal, but it is a sign of the greatest love. “No greater love can one have than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).

Sacrifice can sometimes be in terms of material things we give for the sake of others, as when we give alms for the poor. We have to surrender something that we ourselves may have wanted, but we do it out of love. At other times, we must give ourselves in service, assisting those who are in need. Jesus pointed out the needs of our brothers and sisters when He shared with us His teaching on the works of mercy. But in order to make these sacrifices, we must be willing to let go of our own wants to share with others. “Anyone who wishes to save his life will lose it (Lk 9:24). The selfish person who never gives anything away will end up in the end spiritually bankrupt. He or she will have nothing to present to Jesus when they meet Him at the end of their earthly journey. “But the one who loses his life for My sake, will find it” (Lk 9:24).  What we have sacrificed in love and service to others the Lord will give back to us a hundredfold at the moment we encounter Him at our judgement.

Love makes sacrifice easy

We know from our human experience that it is not easy to make sacrifices. We often may intend to make a sacrifice of something and offer it to God for the salvation of souls and in reparation for sin. But sometimes we easily find reasons to excuse ourselves from making that sacrifice. That is why the spirit of sacrifice requires a great love. The children of Fatima grew to a great love. They had generous hearts.

Perhaps we can end this reflection on sacrifice with the words taken from the traditional “Exhortation before Marriage” which the priest used to read to every couple on their wedding day, before the changes in the marriage ritual after Vatican II. The priest reminded the young couple that their marriage would bind them together for life and influence their whole future. He told them that their future “with its hopes and its disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows,” were that day hidden from their eyes. But since they were part of every human life the young couple should expect them in their own married life, and so they would have to take one another “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.” He then told them to base the security of their wedded life on the principle of self-sacrifice. He then came to this powerful thought:

“Henceforth, you belong entirely to each other: you will be one in mind, one in heart and one in affections. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this common life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy; and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete.”

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