September 12, 2021
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Whenever we look at a Crucifix, do we really understand, that Jesus made a total and complete sacrifice for you, for me, for all of us? In our culture we tend to clean up our crucifixes, unlike in Mexico and in other parts of Latin America, where they seem to be dripping in blood much like the depiction in Mel Gibson’s the Passion of the Christ. If we think the physical suffering was bad enough, we can’t begin to imagine the psychological and spiritual suffering he endured.
This idea is completely against the mind set of Jesus’ world, as well as our world. A little sacrifice might be acceptable, but total sacrifice seems unreasonable. That was the reason why Peter protested. And that is also the reason why Jesus tells him that he is thinking the way the world does. He calls him Satan, because he is allowing himself to be influenced by the devil, the tempter.
A mindset that is basically self-centered cannot understand sacrifice. It also cannot understand love. The person whose concept of love is as a means of his or her fulfilling personal desires cannot understand that real love demands sacrifice. In fact, the deeper the love, the greater the sacrifice. The shallower the love, the more insignificant the sacrifice.
Couples whose marriages have grown so that they can say that they are far more in love now than when they first married, recognize that they each sacrifice more now than when they were first married. They understand each other better because they are willing to accept each other more than ever before. A wife in our parish whose life revolves around taking care of her sick husband, loves him more now than on their honeymoon. The man in the parish who supports his wife when she is having a bad day, or week, is loving her. On the opposite side, the guy looking to pick up a girl for the evening knows nothing of love. The girl who views a guy as a means to an end will see the end of her ability to enter into a real marriage.
Consider the sacrifices that you’ve made for your children. There is nothing that you would not do for them no matter what it costs you. That includes setting your faces like flint, like the Servant of the first reading, and putting up with your children’s complaints and even their anger when you decide to resist the temptation to be the “cool parents.” Expecting children to come to Mass, can pose a challenge. Some might even call coming to Mass boring. And yet how beautiful it is to see families together in Church, because this is what Catholic families do. Other families may not be doing this, but you are because this is who you are. You refuse to give in to grumbling, because you love your children more than yourself and take seriously your responsibility to raise them in the faith. Your faces are set like flint.
Christ’s love for us was unrestricted. He would do anything for us. He would make any sacrifice for us. Peter couldn’t understand. He protested because he wanted to put a limit on the Lord’s sacrifice, and thus on his love. He thought in the way of the world. It would take time for Peter to learn the demands of Christianity, the demands of true love. He would be among the first of many martyrs who would be witnesses to love.
None of us want to suffer. If we did there would be something wrong with us. But if we really love, then we are willing to accept suffering, and deny ourselves so that our love might grow deeper. Acknowledging that this is completely opposed to the mindset of a self-centered society, we ask God to give us all the ability to love and love well. We ask our Lord to give us the courage to live with sacrificial love and with his help to courageously live the Gospel.