Just that word can make us shutter. It can make us want to run in the other direction. Or maybe it can make us think, “No, not another one of those talks on Catholicism and sacrifice…”
I know for myself when I hear this word, I immediately think of those times I heard “offer it up” when I was growing up, but not understanding what that meant.
But Sister, hear me out…I think a healthy and open conversation about sacrifice is so important to our Church today.
So, Valentine’s day is right around the corner.
It’s a lovely time of year when love is in the constant forefront of our minds and conversations. We see all of the cards, chocolates, and flowers for sale- the advertisements of men getting that special someone something unique to commemorate their love…
Now, don’t get me wrong- none of these things are wrong. It’s a beautiful thing to give and receive, to have a reminder that we are loved- not only by our friends and family, but by God who loves us eternally. These are all really good things.
But sometimes it can be easy to reduce that good, beautiful, and hopeful love to things like cards, chocolates, and flowers. I mean, I love chocolate as much as the next girl- but sometimes it can be difficult to remember that love does not revolve around a single day.
Love requires sacrifice.
One brisk winter day a few weeks ago, I walked through the rosary garden at a local shrine. A cool breeze brushed up against my face, and the setting sun left a picturesque view over the hills of Pennsylvania. Taking in this beautiful scenic day, I was talking with the Lord about the burdens of my heart.
I would like to say that 2018 ended with a joyous close, but in reality, it was quite a time of wrestling with the Lord. I was bringing to Jesus and Mary all that has been on my heart-the joys, struggles, hopes, and relationships.
I came on retreat to take time to find answers with the Lord and to talk with Him as a friend. In the midst of my day at the shrine, the words of a meditation I had read years before came to mind.
“God does indeed give people to us; he gives us brothers and sisters in our humanity... Every such person, in some way, is a gift to us, and we can say of each: 'God has given you to me'” – Meditation on Givenness
A cold night. Animals as neighbors. Sharing your child’s “crib” with food that animals eat from. Sleeping on Straw. Smells of a stable day and night…
This definitely is not what we image as the first Christmas. Usually, we picture the perfect looking Christmas card image- Mary and Joseph radiant with Jesus, Kings and shepherds all neat and pristine to see their newborn King, where Jesus looks He is sleeping comfortably as in a crib.
And yet, even with this all too common image of a beautiful Christmas, how often does it sometimes deter us from the reality that God became Man, not in the perfect ideal setting, but rather, in probably one of the most difficult and messy situations.
Mary, the mother of Christ, a 14 year old young woman, probably could have preferred that God choose another time to have this happen in her life. Along with Joseph and her newborn child, they would be pilgrims in an unknown land. Mary would give birth to her child without her whole family celebrating with her. There were many parts of this situation which seemed to go against the ideal. Yet, God became man in this. He chose out of all times, places, people, and situations in history, to come into this one.
This... This was the circumstance that God chose. Throughout thousands of years, God told His people that He would send a Messiah, He encouraged them to eagerly await His coming. His people, generation upon generation, waited for this moment in history when God would redeem his people, and this was the time He chose.
Let every heart prepare Him room.
The lights were dimmed and the altar was illuminated by the mass of candles placed around it. I listened to that line over and over again- let every heart prepare Him room.
Honestly, I felt like I had been listening to some sort of variation of those words since Advent was remotely near. Hearing the questions, how can we prepare for the coming of Jesus? What do you need to remove in your life to make more room for Him?
And if I’m totally honest I was the one asking those questions at least half the time.
Bloch, Carl Heinrich, Woman at the Well [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
To be seen. Just those words alone have a mix of connotations for me. It is the ultimate desire of my heart, but also something I run from.
A few days ago, I was doing Visio Divina (praying with art) with this image with a group of young adults. What struck all of us was that Jesus noticed this woman. His look is impenetrable. Jesus went beyond the social constructs of the time and spoke to her.
There is a sort of heartbreak about viewing art, especially viewing artwork that really strikes you. Maybe it even cuts you to the heart. Suddenly, you feel the excitement of discovering a new favorite artist or something about the artwork that draws you in: a dark figure that seems to stick out underneath layers of a painting, dialogue in a theater performance that brings you to tears, or a raw poetic lyric that catches you in a hip-hop song. What’s heartbreaking about these experiences is that they can only last for a fleeting moment, or moments, depending on how long you sit with it or how many times you are able to come back to it. It is a temporary experience of beauty that can’t last forever, as much as we want it to. We can’t hold on to that moment when a work of art gets you and draws you in deeper.