Bishop’s Reflection: Transforming Sacrificial Love is Revealed by Christ

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by Bishop Michael G. Duca

There is a commercial on TV that positively captures a deep spiritual truth that should guide all of our lives.  The scene opens with a young man stating to his friends, “I will never get married,” followed by the next scene of the young man buying an engagement ring.  The commercial continues with a series of these scenes. Now married he says to his wife, “We will never have children,” followed by a scene in the delivery room with his wife in labor.  Next he proclaims, “We will never move to the suburbs,” followed with a scene of his suburban home. “We will never have another child,” is followed immediately with a revelation from his wife that she is pregnant. The last scene is of the young family on their living room couch, the two children and wife asleep, and the father looking at his family with a deep love says, “I will never let you go!”

I think this story resonates with me because I see myself in the young man in the story.  I made some similar statements when I finished my studies at the seminary.  I remember being sure that I never wanted to study canon law and I never wanted to return to the seminary.  But God saw something different in me and I was sent to Rome to study canon law. When I returned from my studies, I was made rector of the same seminary I never wanted to return to.  I never could have imagined those turns in my life. God gave me everything I did not want and erased any story I could have imagined.

I suppose it is often true that when left to our own devices and reasoning, we often make small, superficial and self-serving choices in life. In the end what saves us from a self-serving, small, uninspired life is love. But not any kind of love, it is the transforming sacrificial love revealed by the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ on the cross.  On the cross Jesus sacrificed His life for us so we can have life more abundantly.

This kind of love seems too impossible to bear or is made to seem ridiculous in the secular culture that surrounds us. We often run from it like the young man in the commercial, but love captures us unexpectedly and sacrificial love peels away our self-centeredness and opens us to the joy of love.  Thank goodness we don’t have to make big sacrifices at the beginning, because we are kind of tricked by falling in love, or blessed with joyful graces that make us feel in control at the beginning.  But eventually the demands of love strip away anything that keeps us from deepening our commitment. Just when we feel we have nothing to give, we find a new strength.  It feels like we are giving up everything, but we are just making room for something better.

Jesus this Holy Week embraces his cross.  He knows it will be hard and in the garden of Gethsemane he begs his Father, “Let this cup pass away from me” but in the end Jesus remains faithful to the demands of love, the will of his Father.  This is our life at times, the demands of love invite us deeper into the mystery of love and it costs us dearly.  Caring for parents that need more help, for the needs of an ill child or spouse, volunteering to help a neighbor or relative, trying to heal strife in a family or rekindle love all take time and effort and will demand that we let something else go to embrace these demands of love.  Like Jesus on the Cross, it feels like dying, in fact, it is a dying to self.  But Jesus who died on the cross did not remain in the tomb, but was resurrected to new life.  So too if we die with Christ in remaining faithful to our commitments of love, we resurrect with a new heart now free to love with a depth we never expected and we are connected to others with a love so deep it is frightening and wonderful at the same time.

In the short commercial I mentioned above, the young man takes this journey of love. I have found this journey of love in my priesthood and as your bishop. I pray that this Holy Week and Easter will be filled with a grace to help us all to cast off our self-centeredness and sin and embrace the demands of love.  It will feel like dying, but it is really the path of new life and resurrection.

State Farm Commercial
https://youtu.be/O1Z91YkPatw

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