When considering intentional sacrifice, one
might ponder, "Why in the world would anybody ever, ever, deprive
themselves of anything that could make their life easier, more enjoyable, and
possibly delight their senses?" Further to that point, "What if doing
so causes some discomfort or worse yet, pain?"
There is but one reason to sacrifice, making discomfort truly worthwhile: Love.
You retort, "But I love a warm fuzzy blanket, a steamy-hot shower, a second helping of my favorite entrée, Facebook, Instagram, or a hot and creamy vanilla latte with a dollop of whipped cream. "
That, my friend is not love. But I understand.
Sacrifice is Love
As Christians, we know that love begins with Jesus, and when it comes to sacrifice, He simply cannot be out done.
Fortunately, Christ has made us partners in His sacrifice, as He calls us to “take up our cross and follow Him.” He left a perfect example for us to follow in His steps, and He desires to share His sacrifice with us.
According to Miriam Webster, sacrifice is, "The act of giving up something (what) that you want to keep, especially in order to (why) get or do something else or to help someone (who)."
Let's break sacrifice down in the life of us Christians, because, in our walk with Christ, everything matters – and everything counts. If Jesus is the perfect example of sacrifice, borne of love, we need to understand the key elements of His sacrifice:
· What did Jesus sacrifice? At times, He sacrificed sleep, food, comfort, fellowship, security, and ultimately, His life.
· Who did He want to help? You and me. And to show how radical Jesus’ love is for us, we learn in Romans 5:8 “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
· Why did He make these sacrifices? First, to teach us what love looks like. And as we learned from our dear friend, St. Maximillian Kolbe, “Without sacrifice, there is no love.” And because of His sacrifice we might have eternal life (John 3:16). He came “…to give His life as a ransom for many… He loves us to the end… taking on our sins.” CCC 622 & 623. His sacrifice is the reason we might inherit eternal life, plain and simple. Can you think of a greater act of love than Jesus’ sacrifice? Me neither…
Jesus did just that,
and it is true that we, as Christians, are His disciples, His
students. We are called to learn from Jesus: to live, love
and serve as He served. As the famous rapper, Kanye West sings, we are to become
In John 15:12 we read “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
Yes, we are to love as Jesus loved.
But how did Jesus ultimately show us His love? He, being sinless and blameless, took our sins upon Himself for the forgiveness of OUR sins. He sacrificed His life, that we may live.
I know Jesus' sacrifice is a stark contrast to the type of sacrifice we often consider, but for some of us, putting down our phone or saying 'no' to that vanilla latte is heroic!
St. Paul teaches that we are not to be strangers of sacrifice, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." (Romans 12:1)
Sacrifice and the Battle
We are made up of both flesh and spirit. Our spirit is always leading us to the things good, true, and beautiful; that will draw us closer to God.
Unfortunately, our flesh, our humanity, is drawn toward the things of this world - the things that appeal to our senses, our flesh (I call this “fleshy”). These things lead us away from God. These temptations of the flesh, though unseen, but very sensed, make sacrifice feel like climbing a steep, daunting mountain, nearly impossible.
St. Louis de Montfort teaches
… Wisdom is not found in the hearts of those who live in comfort, gratifying their passions and bodily desires, because 'they who are of the flesh cannot please God' and 'the wisdom of the flesh is an enemy to God.' … If we are to possess incarnate Wisdom, Jesus Christ, we must practice self-denial and renounce the world and self.
Simply put, if we give into the desires of our flesh, we hurt God, but if we fight against it, our reward is Jesus Himself.
Sacrifice as a Prayer
Sacrifice, in and of itself can be fruitless, but if done for love of Lord and souls, it can be a powerful prayer! It is not what we do, but why we do it that makes it great. If we do all things for love of God, then our sacrifices will be great; for the Kingdom, the Universal Church, for our families (the Domestic Church), our loved ones, and for us.
It is one thing to say, “No” to that hand-full of m & m's in order to fit into that new dress, and altogether another to offer that small sacrifice to God, for love of Him and souls. If we are intentional with our sacrifices, we can spend our entire day loving God through our decisions – again, everything matters and everything counts when done for love of Him and souls.
Love is not simply a feeling, it is a gift, and as Blessed Mother Teresa says, “Give until it hurts.” That is love, Jesus-style.
So, now that we understand sacrifice, here are the top 10 Reasons to Sacrifice - Intentionally:
If sweets, snacking between meals, or refraining from a second helping are our sacrifice, we might lose weight out of the deal!
The next two (9 and 8) relate to sacrifice helping us grow in virtue.
Sacrifice helps to grow in temperance (self-control), which is the gateway to greater virtue.
In his Autobiography, inventor, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and founding father, Ben Franklin challenges us, “Be at war with your vices!” This requires temperance.
Furthermore, he encourages when pursuing virtue, to tackle temperance first, because it produces the “coolness and clearness of head… necessary for constant vigilance… and helps guard against our bad habits and temptations.”
To paraphrase, once we can gain self-control (temperance), the remainder of the virtues will come more easily.
How does this apply to us? One cup of coffee for the day, not three. Zero or one glass of wine, not two or three. A quick snack? Not now - later. Thirty minutes of social media (Facebook, Instagram, News, etc. rather than two to three hours, thirty minutes of video games, not three hours, etc.).
Refraining from something we desire is sacrifice, and this requires temperance (self-control).
Through sacrifice we will grow in the virtue of Fortitude by not giving in to our temptations. We will grow stronger.
By making sacrifices for love of Lord, we can temper our desires for the things of this world. Each time we choose to sacrifice, rather than give into our temptation, we strengthen our spiritual muscles, thereby weakening the strength of the evil one (who… by the way… is and has been relentlessly pursuing us through temptation and studying our weaknesses since the day we were born - totally unfair. I digress...)
Jesus shared with Catalina Rivas, a Bolivian mystic and stigmatist:
Souls.. give into a whim, enjoy themselves in a passing satisfaction, and surrender… to what their passion demands… Thinking to themselves, they say, ‘I have already deprived myself of this or that, and that is enough…’ If we do not have the courage to fight our own nature in a small thing. We will be unable to fight when the occasion shall be greater.
As in strength training, when we sacrifice, or work against our desires, we exercise our spiritual muscles, thereby strengthening them, helping us to resist greater temptation in the future.
Through this new discipline gained in sacrifice, we will find freedom. Not freedom from temptation, mind you, but freedom the things that hold on to us (our attachments or addictions). Our addictions and attachments will lose their hold on us, giving us greater freedom.
The fruit of freedom we gain through sacrifice is peace and her sister – joy.
True peace of heart is found in resisting passions (sacrifice) not satisfying them. - Thomas a Kempis
A life, lived for love of Lord, enables us to live in peace and as a result, experience true joy. As F.B. Meyer encourages, “Joy is peace dancing and peace is joy at rest.”
Sacrifice (fasting) allows us to better hear the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
We know that prayer and fasting together are powerful and fasting most assuredly is sacrifice. Therefore, this type of sacrifice (fasting) detaches us from this world, our vices, attaching us to the next world. This detachment removes noise from our lives, opening us to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
By following Jesus’ example of sacrifice, we will grow closer to Him by walking in His footsteps.
We learn in 1 Peter 2:21, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
As we know, Christ dying on the cross was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. His sacrifice was a loving act of obedience which forms for us a bridge we must cross in order to obtain heaven. We cannot cross without "touching the cross"... hence sacrifice is our part of the cross.
John 13:15, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
We are able to gain heaven through Jesus’ sacrifice, and our cooperation with Him, by following in His footsteps. Again, our journey to Him is made possible by His cross, which He asks us to carry – to sacrifice. We can’t get from here to there without touching the cross (without sacrifice).
We know that God cannot be outdone in generosity. Anything we choose sacrifice for love of Him and souls will be returned to us and those we love in the form of grace.
As our dear friend St. Francis of Assisi affirms, “It is in giving that we receive.”
Our sacrifices help to fill the Church’s Treasury
Our Catholic Church has a tremendous gift in which we invited to participate! The Church’s Treasury, also known as Treasury of Merit, the Treasury of Grace, or as the Schoenstatt sisters call it the Capital of Grace.
- - Christ’s merits, setting the whole of mankind free from sin
- - The prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God
- - The cooperation of the saints through their prayers and good works who have followed in the footsteps of Christ (CCC 1476 & 1477)
- - AND given we were created to know, love, and serve God, to be happy with Him in heaven (to be saints) our prayers and good works also contribute to the Church’s treasury
The Church’s Treasury is a wonderful exchange, wherein the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause.
Therefore, we not only benefit from the sacrifices of Jesus, Mary, and the saints that have gone before us, on our path to sainthood, we can contribute to this rich treasury that other souls may come to know, love and serve Our Lord.
In short, our sacrifice could be the grace needed for a soul to turn away from sin, or simply open their heart to Jesus.
Number One Reason to sacrifice, intentionally
Through a life of sacrifice,
by God’s grace, you can look forward to being welcomed in to an eternal family with
the beautiful words,
"Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21)
Sacrifice may not seem easy, but it is simple if we walk in the footsteps of Christ, relying on His strength, not our own.
So how do we begin to incorporate sacrifice into our daily life? In the encouraging words of our friend, St. Francis of Assisi, who has already finished the race, and is praying for us to join him in an eternal family:
Start small, start with love.
God will help you take care of the rest.
Thank you and happy sacrificing!!!