The Christian Life is Sacrifice

If men were only in error, He (Christ) might have been a Teacher fenced in by all the comforts of life; and after having taught the theory of pain, He would die on a soft bed. But then He would have left no other message than a code to obey. But if men were in sin, He would be a redeemer and His message would be “Follow Me,” to share in the fruit of that Redemption.

–Ven. Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ

The above quote is the theme and thesis of this wonderful book about the Life of Our Lord. This Lent, as I have been reading through it, I have been struck by how every word and event in Our Lord’s life pointed to the Cross, and emphasized His coming Passion and Death. Truly it is the perfect book to read for Lent!

From Bethlehem to Gethsemane, the Cross was the purpose behind each miracle, each prayer, and each deed. When a Christian (or a group of Christians) de-emphasizes, downplays, or misunderstands the centrality of the Crucifixion and Death of Our Savior to His Life, and to our own lives as Christ’s followers, he loses something of the entire meaning of Christianity. Throughout history, the leaders of most Protestant sects have gradually thrown out all vestiges of the sacrificial nature of Christian Sunday worship, leaving them with Christ as the Word of God and rejecting Christ Who is also the Lamb of God. But the Gospels of the Word of God cannot be truly understood without the bloody and violent Sacrifice of the Cross.

There was a ransom to be paid and that was death; for the “wages of sin is death.” Ransom would be meaningless if human nature was not in debt.

–Ven. Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ

If Christians emphasize Our Lord’s preaching without talking even more about His Sacrifice, we make his preaching essentially meaningless. His preaching was to teach us to avoid sin, to flee sin, to hate sin more than death–all because of the death that sin causes by its very nature. Much of Our Savior’s preaching has been divorced from this original purpose, with preachers/teachers/interpreters completely sidestepping the context in which He intended for us to receive His words. The Beatitudes, for example, are a popular topic for sermons, editorial pieces, and Sunday School classes. Having been divorced from the context of sin, sacrifice, and salvation, in our times they are easily read in light of whatever social/economic system one wants to support, perhaps bolstering claims to public funding of social welfare progams, etc., if one so wishes. But if Christians want to understand what Our Lord meant by His preaching, what He wants His followers to understand from His words, we must look at His actions for that, and He both preached and lived sacrifice.

He did not make Christianity easy; for He implied not only must there be a voluntary renouncement of everything that hindered likeness with Him, but also there must be the suffering, shame, and death of the Cross.

–Ven. Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ

Because of Our Savior’s words and example, we can see that in our personal lives, we are called to lovingly sacrifice much. Both accepting with joyful resignation the trials that Our Heavenly Father allows us to pass through, and willingly renouncing many of the good things of this life for an even greater good, we must always be living in a very different way from the people in the world around us. Our only concern needs to be modeling ourselves on Christ: and He came to be a Sacrifice for our redemption. That is how we must follow Him, going all the way to the Cross. Even if personal sacrifice is not emphasized in the preaching at your parish church or in the Catholic publications of your diocese, please remember that this is the most important thing we need to do in order to follow Our Lord to Heaven–because He said so. The saints in every age and every walk of life remembered these words, giving proof of their love and service to God by their loving sacrifices, day after day.

We all face the task of growing in love and offering up sacrifices in order to be Christ’s followers. This is incredibly difficult! But He did not leave us orphans! Our Lord came among us to redeem us, to teach us, and to establish a Church that will continue His redemptive work throughout all time. During the last days of the season of Lent, pray with the Church that God will strengthen us and give us His grace to model our lives on the sacrificial Life of Christ, our Suffering Savior.

The Christian Life is Sacrifice

 

 

 

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