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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sacrifice and the Glorious Mysteries

Art by Ruth J Smucker - At the Center
Lent is nearly here, and yet it is the Glorious Mysteries I have in mind.  As I have heard many times, and had to remind myself many times, there is no resurrection without the cross. 

Much good comes at a cost.  The cliché is that good things come to those who wait, but what about the good that comes to those who sacrifice?  Many good things come about as a result of sacrifices, big and small.

Most sacrifices can be categorized into the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

The Corporal Works of Mercy include: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, harboring the harborless, visiting the sick, ransoming the captive, and burying the dead.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy include: instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, admonishing sinners, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offenses willingly, comforting the afflicted, and praying for the living and the dead. 

Just a few examples... 
  • The child who spends hours at the bedside of a dying parent.  (This child is visiting the sick, but also comforting the afflicted.)
  • The parent who spends hours at work to provide for their family.  (This parent is feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, and harboring the harborless.)
  • The neighbor who offers a cup of tea, a listening ear, and perhaps some counsel.  (This neighbor is is comforting the afflicted, but also perhaps instructing the ignorant and counseling the doubtful as well.)
  • The stranger just cut in front of in the checkout line, but does not become angry, and even puts on a smile for the clerk.  (This person is bearing wrongs patiently and forgiving offenses willingly.)  
  • The colleague who takes the time to visit the funeral home after the death of a colleague's loved one.  (This colleague is helping to bury the dead by offering their respects.) 
The list could go on...

All of these are examples of sacrifice, a dying to self.  Some seem natural to one's state in life, and some are, but that does not make it less of a sacrifice.  Nor does it mean one is not called to further sacrifice.  Sometimes our state in life can be in transition, or through certain circumstances become different from the norm for one's state in life. 

For example, my husband and I, having no live children, do not have the opportunity to offer the usual sacrifice of parents for their children.  We are called then to other ways of sacrifice.  This might sound simple, but many times when one finds oneself in unusual circumstances, it actually becomes more difficult.  

Works of mercy, whether corporal, spiritual, or both, if done in a spirit of supernatural charity can become a supernatural offering to God.  A prayer offered up with the sacrifice made, completely changes the nature of the act, transforming it into an offering to God and a supernatural gift of self. 

Therefore, sacrifices need not only have corporal or spiritual effect, but they can have a supernatural effect that only offering it up in this way can.  It can be offered for those in need, in reparation for sins, etc.  It is spiritually life giving.  It is a multiplication of good that comes from sacrifice.

This is especially true if sacrifices are offered up to Mary to be offered to God.  As St. Louis-Marie de Montfort writes in his treatise on True Devotion to Mary, Mary will take one's offering and make it worthy of reception by God.  St. Louis-Marie de Montfort gives the example of fruit given to the king from a peasant-friend of the queen mother.  The queen takes the fruit, plates it on a silver or gold plate, and then offers it to the king, making any gift all the more rich.  

Lent is a special time of penance...of prayer, fasting and alms giving.  Yes, all of these can have corporal and spiritual benefits.  The supernatural benefit comes with the offering of it up in prayer to God, and the humbling of oneself.

The Psalmist writes: "For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it; a burnt offering you would not accept.  My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn." Psalm 51:18-19

Showing true love, true charity, to others by whatever means it might be, is a sweet smelling oblation to the Lord when it is properly offered up in prayer.

Furthermore, it is in sacrifice that one learns who one really is.  It is in sacrifice that one becomes a better person.  Denying oneself hurts, it hurts at the core of who we are.  We discover a lot about ourselves in pain and suffering.  Suffering curbs our vices: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth.  We become better people, and we ourselves become an offering to God.  

We can offer ourselves as Christ offers Himself.  Followers of Christ, who wish to be molded in His image recognize that the servant is not treated better than His master.  In other words, if Christ is crucified for us, we must die for others.  In small ways, and sometimes in big ways.  Whether it might include the shedding of blood or not.

Here finally are the meditations I wish to share regarding the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. 

The Resurrection
(Christ is resurrected from the dead and leaves the tomb.)
One must give of oneself to the point of dying as a seed.  Without dying one cannot be raised.  There is no joy without sacrifice.  There is no love in only doing what is easy or comfortable.  Suffering begets a good.  Joy and life come out of suffering.  Be willing to suffer, for in suffering you will find great peace.

The Ascension into Heaven
(Christ ascends to the Father in heaven.)
We do not suffer alone in silence.  Our Savior has walked ahead of us and is seated at the right hand of God.  He comes to us in the Eucharist.  He promised He would be with us always.  We must have hope in Him who keeps His promises.  He has made the journey for us to follow.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit
(The Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles and Mary.)
The Holy Spirit is come.  We forget that He is the ever faithful spouse of Our Blessed Mother.  He cannot refuse coming to our aid, especially when we come to Him as the children of His Most Beloved Spouse, the Virgin Mary.  We must trust that He is with us, guiding us, setting our hearts ablaze with love and courage.

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven
(Mary is assumed body and soul into heaven.)
If we give ourselves to Our Lady as her children, as is part of our baptismal promises, then we will arrive at heaven.  We can be assured of a holy death as her children.  For her Son wishes to gather all of His brothers and sisters together under His Father and our Father in heaven.

The Coronation of Mary
(Mary is crowned queen of heaven and of us all.)
We too know that if we run the race giving all we have to God, we will surely receive our crowns as well, and it is good that we be rewarded for our service, for Our Lady was rewarded for her service, and if we share in the sufferings we should be rewarded as well, for we are one family.  Christ said that if St. Peter wanted a part with him, he would need to serve.  He wishes us to serve with Him, but then also to receive that same glory according to our service.