Along with the rewards and benefits that come with membership in the Catholic Church come duties, obligations, and even sacrifices. This article on the Catholic News Agency discusses how the secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, says that modern society has lost the ideas of duty and sacrifice. I see the theme of duty represented in the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery and the importance of sacrifice shown in the Third Luminous Mystery. We should meditate on these mysteries for the strength and courage to do all that God asks of us.
Through His death, Jesus showed us that we all have a duty to live and defend our faith. As I said in my Crucifixion meditation, I feel that Jesus’ crucifixion is the ultimate example that we are all called to follow God’s plan even in the face of great difficulty. It is our duty, as Catholics, to remain faithful no matter the earthly consequences our faith might bring. I see so many instances where peoples’ duty to the Catholic faith stops as soon as it comes in conflict with their personal views, beliefs, or lifestyle. However, the Church always reminds us that we have an obligation to put God first in our lives. And while that can cause great hardship in this life, God rewards our dedication with everlasting life in His kingdom.
The Third Luminous Mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion, outlines the need for sacrifice. I typically see sacrifice in terms of fasting. However, I often wonder what difference it makes whether I fast or not. After all, am I a better person because I skip a dessert or give up drinking soda? Do my prayers carry any more weight because I didn’t eat meat on a Friday? When put into the context of the Third Luminous Mystery, sacrifice and fasting make more sense. In his book, “Fasting,” Fr. Slavko Barbaric explains the sacrifice of fasting as “a call for conversion directed to our body… by which we become free from and independent of all material things.” Notice how he echos the idea of sacrifice being a tool for conversion. When we fast and sacrifice, we detach ourselves from the fleeting pleasures of this world and open ourselves to the much greater gift of God’s grace. In other words, God is no more receptive to us because we fast (after all, He is already infinitely receptive to everyone) but we become more receptive to God.
Our duty as Catholics to live a life of sacrifice will not be easy. However, Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues is very direct when he says, “God’s plan cannot be fulfilled except through sacrifice.” In other words, sacrifice is not something optional for Catholics nor is it something we should only think about during holy seasons like Lent. Yes, our faith can present challenges. But what challenge can be so great that it is not worth the promise of God’s Heavenly kingdom?
Here’s a little snippet from the movie, “Rocky Balboa” where Rocky explains to his son that winning means being able to make sacrifices and endure life’s challenges. Think about this philosophy in terms of your faith. Are you a fighter or are you letting life’s hardships keep you down? Do you have the conviction to really live for God’s kingdom by always striving to do God’s will even in the face of great difficulty?
PS: “Fasting” is out of print, but it is worth picking up a used copy. It is only 47 pages (large type), but it is a great introduction on the importance of fasting.