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.
I honestly think that it can be easy to see sacrifice in the Church from two extreme perspectives, and having the time to discuss it is crucial to the living of our Catholic faith as women in the Church of today.
What is sacrifice? The word actually comes from the Latin sacer which means “holy” and facere which means “to make”. So, literally, this word means, “to make holy”.
This is mind-blowing. This word itself points out a truth to what sacrifice does in our lives.
In pagan religions of ancient times, one took something that was close to their heart and gave it to the gods in offering. But for them, sacrifice was a way to earn the approval of their false gods.
In the light of Christ this has an immensely powerful context. Jesus Himself became our sacrifice to make all sufferings that we encounter possible opportunities for hope. While our society flees from pain, Jesus embraced it with His cross. He shows us that moments of suffering in our lives are opportunities to make holy something which seems so “unholy” in our world today.
Sisters, the Gospel is not a “prosperity Gospel”. Yes, it does speak of ultimate happiness and prosperity in the eyes of eternity, but in the context of today’s world, it does actually point us to the fact that we will encounter the cross. Due to sin, we will encounter suffering. But in this, we find hope in Christ.
Jesus Christ made something so painful and difficult so sweet. He made holy the sufferings and endurances of life... All to bring glory by his gift of self for another.
Our Lord shows us that sacrifice is not to be divided from the context of love. It has its value and meaning, its deepest truth, in the context of gift of self. It truly becomes what it is in Christ… In the gift of Himself for us. His cry in the Garden of Gethsamane, “Father, not my will but yours be done” shows us that what is needed is a union of wills and a desire for the good of the other.
Sacrifice is love.
I write these words as I have wrestled with them in my own life. In my own journey with God, I found myself asking the meaning of sacrifice in the discernment of God’s Will.
When discerning religious life, I struggled with wanting to make the “ultimate sacrifice” to God. I wanted to give Him what seemed in my eyes to be most precious, only to find that love was missing. I was not created to give Him that sacrifice I so earnestly wanted to give him.
It was only in the complete trust in His love and will that I experienced interior freedom of the call to be a gift for another. When I realized He was asking me to give Him my want for religious life, I felt so free to love Him as I truly was. And that gift was so much more precious.
I’m not gonna lie. It was immensely difficult to let go. But I am so glad I did. And in such an act of giving Him what I felt Him asking of me, he truly brought glory and joy beyond what I could imagine. He ultimately gave me Himself, the greatest gift.
Jesus makes all things new, even pain and suffering. His love gives us an everlasting hope and joy that our sufferings to indeed bring redemption to others even when we might not see the fruits.
Sister, as we head into the first full week of Lent, what is the Lord asking of your heart? What is something in your life He is asking to make holy by uniting it to Him? Who can you offer your sufferings for and unite them to Christ's act of redemption?
During these holy 40 days, let us be Christ-bearers to the world by the beauty of true sacrifice, out of love for God and others. Know He is ever with you, bearing the cross with you – ultimately leading you to His Resurrection.