Religion Without Sacrifice This excerpt


Religion Without Sacrifice

This excerpt from the homily by Fr. Gordon Bennett at the closing Mass of the Ninth Black Catholic Conference says almost everything that needs to be said:

Today's Gospel comes to us from the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel that reveals Jesus as the great teacher, as one who says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me." In Matthew, we see Jesus take his disciples to the mountaintop and teach them, in the Beatitudes, what his values are and what it means to live in the consciousness of the kingdom of God. In Matthew, Jesus teaches us in the parables the method and the process of God's own heart as it is laid open and bare before us. And in Matthew, Jesus teaches us that most important lesson, the one about love consisting more in deeds than it does in words, and that the most important manifestation of love is one's willingness to bear the cross, to suffer, to sacrifice for the beloved.

None of Jesus' teachings is more important than this one; and none of Jesus' teachings makes any real sense without this one. It is no wonder we find this particular teaching so difficult, so worrisome, so irksome.

If you don't believe me, would you please raise your hand right now if you like carrying your cross; raise your hand if you like suffering.

You see, one of the desires of our fragile and fickle hearts, if we are honest, is that, as much as we want to have religion in our lives, as much as we profess that we value "walking by faith and not by sight," the religion we want is a religion without sacrifice, a religion in which we can experience the ecstasy of spiritual union with God without having to endure the intense and agonizing purification which makes that union possible.

In that sense we are so much like Peter in today's Gospel, who spontaneously blurts out this response to Jesus' teaching on suffering: "God forbid, Lord, no such thing will ever happen to you." This is equivalent to Peter saying: "Jesus, you don't have to suffer and neither do I." Peter, the first pope, knows very little, as Jesus harshly reminds him, about the perfect wisdom of God. He does not yet know that a religion without sacrifice is really merely useless posturing. In fact, a religion without sacrifice is an impossibility. Peter does not yet know this, but he will learn. And he will learn from Jesus.

I know how true this is of me, and I wish it were otherwise. But I'd prefer to get to Divine Union via the shortcut, whatever that may be. St. Thérèse speaks of an "Elevator to God." That is, you simply allow God to lift you up in His arms. That sounds easy enough, but how long does it take until we can abandon our own preconceptions and gladly enter God's arms and allow that elevator to work. For St. Thérèse it happened within a span of 24 or so years. But few of us start our journey with the advantages of family that St. Thérèse had. It is, however, no excuse for our reluctance to progress. We are far too busy filling our heads with ideas about God, notions about who He is, and how He works, while brothers and sisters around us go homeless, hungry and cold. As Fr. Bennett says above, love is not merely feeling, it is about action. St. Thérèse made this point over and over again; a point parallel to St. James point about faith--just as with faith, love without works is dead.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 7, 2002 8:07 AM.

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