Thursday, 13 September 2012

Sacrifice in the Christian life

The notion of sacrifice is profoundly Christian and profoundly Catholic. Our life cannot be spent without sacrifice since Our Lord Jesus Christ, God Himself, willed to take a body like our own and say to us: “Follow Me. Take up your cross and follows Me if you will be saved.” And He gave us the example of His death upon the Cross; He shed His blood. Would we then dare, we, His poor creatures, sinners that we are, not to follow Our Lord? To follow Our Lord carrying His Cross: such is the mystery of Christian civilisation; this is the root of Catholic civilization.

 Everyone has problems: personal problems, health problems… We would not be able to understand these trials if we did not think of the holy Victim who offers Himself on the altar.

 The whole Catholic religion is founded on the fact that our actions can be meritorious. We repeat it constantly. When you are confined to your sickbed in the hospital and have been suffering for months, you know that if you offer your sufferings with those of Our Lord, you share Calvary; and so doing, you distribute all the merits you earn to the world and to yourself for your conversion and redemption. This is what sustains the Catholic. On the contrary the Protestants do not believe that our actions can be meritorious because they claim that everything was merited by Our Lord on the Cross on Calvary. Consequently according to the Protestants, we can no longer merit anything. You see the difference: If someone were to tell us, “All your actions are useless for your salvation; they are not meritorious”, then of what use would it be to live, suffer and work?

This is what the father and mother of a family are told: “In your family life you suffer, you have difficulties, you go through hard times. Remember to unite your sufferings to those of Our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary, to those of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Go to Mass; there you will find the mainstay of your life, the help that will give you strength to bear your trials.” Then the father and mother of a family who follow this counsel will say to themselves inwardly: “Indeed, Our Lord is in me by His grace, and I unite myself to His sufferings, so suffering is worthwhile.” How many of those who were locked in concentration camps or prisons, or who suffered martyrdom or who are suffering it now, were only able to endure it with that thought in mind? This is what supports them: the thought that they unite their sufferings to those of Our Lord on Calvary.

 After that will you then say that the Mass has no power to take away sins, that the Mass is not a meritorious act, or that there are no meritorious works, under the pretext that Our Lord accomplished everything on Calvary, which is completely contrary to what Jesus Christ taught us: “Take up your cross and follow me.” Why carry the cross and follow Him if it is not meritorious? Why did Our Lord tell us that? To unite us to Hiss Cross.

 “Do penance” Why should we do penance if it is of no use for our salvation? This is what St Peter said to the crowd that had gathered at Jerusalem and asked him: “What should we do? You tell us that we have crucified Our Lord and that we must make reparation. What must we do? “Pray, do penance, and be baptised” (Acts 2:37-40), Peter told them. Penance is nothing else than uniting our sufferings to those of Our Lord, without which our life no longer has any meaning. This is what makes the depth and the beauty of our Catholic Faith. As a consequence, even in trials, even in suffering, Catholics have a smile on their lips. They have joy in their hearts because they know that their suffering serves some purpose. Whereas if someone comes and tells you, “that is pointless, you know; you can suffer all you want, but it serves no good purpose whatsoever, “ it causes you to withdraw into yourself; it puts a void in your life that can destroy you.

 When faced with some trial, we know what we must do. If tomorrow we find ourselves bedridden in hospital, if we go into a clinic, if our parents die or we are abandoned, the Cross of Jesus is always before our eyes. “Bear your sufferings! Carry your cross! Follow Me! Don’t let go of your cross! Don’t throw away the cross I give you to carry! Carry it on your shoulders! Follow Me! By following Me, you will have everlasting life and you will save the whole world!” Little St Theresa of the Child Jesus in her Carmel saved millions of souls! How beautiful is our holy Catholic religion!

 All these generations of holy fathers and mothers of families who suffered in a Christian manner, who accepted their sufferings with joy, who were an example for their children, understood very well what the Christian life is. They endured their sufferings and sorrows with Our Lord Jesus Christ. And these generations of Christian families gave vocations. The vocations were born of the parents’ example. They saw their parents live with Our Lord Jesus Christ, assist at the holy sacrifice of the Mass with this faith, with this piety, offering themselves as victims with Our Lord Jesus Christ.

To be continued .....

From The Mass of All Time, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Angelus Press 2007

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