Sacrifice. This is a word thrown around a lot in Catholic circles and in conversation, often while you sip a hot cup of coffee next to a warm fire with friends who reaffirm your beliefs while they enjoy a steaming cup of tea in a sherpa-lined sweatshirt. But what part of this experience is truly sacrifice?
Our culture is teeming with tens of thousands of ways to pursue a life of comfort. This isn’t to bash coffee, tea, and your favorite hoodie, but consider how much we talk about imitating Christ while we’re really not doing it regularly. We say a lot when we proclaim Truth, but how much do we live it? In John 14:6, Jesus says He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Light.” Those words are not just words that sound cool together; they are the very essence of Jesus’ Whole Self. Is this what it means to truly be “Christ-Like?”
Well, we can’t be “The Way.” But we certainly can follow it. Jesus shows in the Gospel that we ought to rid ourselves of all that is unnecessary so that we can more closely follow Him, without distraction. Distractions are many in this day and age, many come at a significant to your soul: addictions to pornography, drugs, egoism, alcohol, or money, and so many more. Advent is a time similar to Lent in that it is penitential. Consider focusing on minimizing or deleting one distraction this season as you prepare for the coming of Christ in His Nativity. This will inevitably place you, and me, in a position of discomfort. Pray for fortitude; fast for strength.
What about proclaiming the Truth? Sometimes loving our neighbor requires us to be placed into positions of discomfort as well. We all have relatives and friends who say they practice the faith, but do they really? Maybe we’re those people in that we don’t really practice the faith faithfully either, but we still know the faith to be True. Sometimes we’re placed into awkward situations where people know what you’re supposed to believe and say, but do we have the courage to say it? The temptation will always be to just let it go and say nothing. Have we offended God by our lack of action? I’ve learned that the test of a true friend is when they will defend you in your absence. If we know that God loves us unconditionally, so much that He would sacrifice His Only Son for us, why wouldn’t we defend Him in His Presence? Your heart was made by God to love God, and it will be tested as how you show that love even when you’re wearing your sweatshirt. Stand up for what’s right even if it makes you unpopular because God knows your heart, and trust me, you’ll never bring your friends to Jesus by ignoring your own sins and the sins of others. Be uncomfortable this Advent for the sake of your friends’ souls, for the sake of your soul. Pray for fortitude; fast for strength.
Finally, how can we possibly embody the Light of Christ? This is what your baptism calls you to do. In baptism, you were made new, your sins washed away, and adopted by God. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus shares with us our mission. By virtue of your baptism, you are called to call others. Reflecting on the Way calls us to focus on ourselves, reflecting on the Truth calls us to focus on others, and reflecting on the Light calls us to Focus on Jesus Christ. We will be the Light of Christ every time we defeat Satan’s temptation to always seek comfort, to avoid telling the Truth, and to shy away from leading others to the Cross. We will never baptize the nations if we stay close to the fire for comfort; we must always cross through the threshold of flame so that we can fully rely on the Grace of God to get us through the trials and tribulations of life. Saint Paul reminds us in his first letter to Peter that our faith will be tested as gold is in fire; let that spark ignite our hearts to bring a pure and authentic witness to the world.
A very holy priest once told me this about the value of fasting and sacrifice: if you want your prayer to be most meaningful, put some action behind your words. Consider physically fasting or abstaining from something you really enjoy and offer that up for Advent this year. Consider finally having that difficult conversation with your friends or family to call them to holiness. Consider how you can fulfill the Mission of Christ and His Church in the brief time we have here on earth.
Let’s find even more ways to align our hearts to the Heart of Jesus so that when we see Him in His Beautiful Innocence, we can be even more in awe that He is the King of Kings Who saves us all.