Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ember Wednesday

Purposeful Sacrifice

The Church asks us to accept sacrifice voluntarily and to consecrate our pains by placing them at the foot of the crucifix.  This is a pattern for Advent as well as for Lent, for both are penitential seasons.

      There is a question as old as man himself, spoken in as many languages as there are peoples in the world, and yet one that still is asked in quest of an answer:  "Why does God send me suffering?:  Sometimes the question is presented in the form of a problem:  "Why should the good suffer while the bad and the wicked seem to prosper?"  The real problem might be summed up by asking how can we reconcile suffering and sin with God's goodness; or, again, why should God the Father freely create a world and creatures that would fall away and require a Redemption in the surfing's of His onlygeoggtten Son?  We shall endeavor to seek
a satisfactory answer to the problem in our meditation this Advent day.

     Our holy faith alone can answer these questions.  Unaided reason is unavailing.  Search as far as long as we will, the answer still eludes us, unless we turn to faith and revelation.  We have to look to the teachings of Christ!  The human mind can plumb no further the mysteries of God, but faith in God and our Lord Jesus Christ enables us to rise superior to the limitations of finite reasoning and see through the mists and shadows the unerring wisdom and benevolent will of God.  That is sufficient flor our quest.  This was the course Christ outlined for us when He walked the earth in human form.  He did not attempt to extirpate evil from the kingdom of the world at large.  He left that for time to come.  Instead He preached to sinners the way of penance.  He preached to Pharisees, though He knew they were whited sepulchers with stony hearts,  He tolerated them to the very end.  This is the attitude of the Church and her faithful members.  Endure both the wicked and the good - "suffer both to grow until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers:  Gather up first the cockle, and bind it in bundles to burn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn."

     We should remember, too, that God's goodness is not infringed upon by the possibility of evil.  When man has rightly used that which God has given, him - and man always has sufficient grace to overcome evil - then God rewards him.  God, therefore, fulfills all justice.

     We cannot refrain from referring to a beautiful story written on the problem of evil in the world.  Tne novel was written by the late Owen Francis Dudley, entitled The Shadow on the Earth.  The cross is the shadow on the earth.  In the narrative the author depicts two characters:  one is a cripple who has lost the use of his limbs through an accident in the Alpine Mountains; the other, a man who has become a confirmed atheist and who tries to convince the suffering companion that there is no God, and if there were, He certainly would not permit him to suffer.

     The story is beautifully worked out to a hopeful and happy conclusion, showing the childlike faith and simplicity of the cripple, whose suffering served only to confirm his faith, while the man who was more prosperous from a worldly viewpoint, grew cynical and depressed.  The spirit of the cripple was ennobled and uplifted by suffering.  The shadow on the earth, the cross, is his hope and his salvation!  One man lost his ability of going from place to place on earth through physical handicap; the other lost his faith which would have given him ability to climb toward heaven and would have pierced the clouds and given understanding of the problem of suffering.

     The cross of Christ is indeed "a yoke that is sweet and a burden that is light."  It is a blessed shadow on the earth, but the shadow of the all-protecting hand of the all-wise and provident God.  For just as a cloud in the heavens sometimes obscures the sun, and leaves the earth darkened and shadowed, so oft-times a cross darkens the light of happiness in our own lives and temporarily closes out the sight of an all-wise God.  Though we may temporarily fail to enjoy the shadowy clouds and raindrops and dewdrops of earth, we realize that they give growth to the things that gladden our hears and eventually become our food.  Likewise, if it were not for the pain of mothers repeopling the earth with hearts of children - if it were not for the pains and crosses of life, we could never enjoy the joys and felicities that make life worth living!  The answer to all our sorrows and the answer to the so-called problem of evil lies in a deeper faith a firmer trust in the goodness of God.  It lies in repeating the prayer of the suffering Christ:  "Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from Me:  but yet, not My will, but Thine be done."  Sacrifice, then, when purposeful, has real meaning and worth, for it leads to the peace of soul which we are seeking through Christ, our Lord.


     Dear Jesus, when my life seems to have a greater share of thorns than rose petals, teach me the lesson of Gethsemane, where You accepted the chalice through prayer to Your heavenly Father.

     My will is weak, my resolution is not firm, but strengthen them and teach me the ways and means to kneel and pray even in the darkness of Gethsemani and Calvary, that I may grow to love sacrifice as my Captain, who You are.