A Word in Season
The Heroic Sacrifice of Our Everyday Duty
It is inescapable.
If you care for other people you cannot avoid putting yourself out for the sake of another.
We call it "making a sacrifice" and it cuts a deep swath into our preferred modus operandi of self-centeredness.
And it's just what we need, really.
It's one thing to witness and applaud the extraordinary sacrifices of our esteemed heroes and heroines, thanking them for their determined and dedicated service, especially when we consider the tragedies of 9/11, or any other epic disaster you can name.
But it's another to remember that sacrifice, for a Christian, is not for emergencies only. It is a way of life, a path to life-giving love. Every day.
The call to holiness is not for wimps. They don't remember a martyr as having "heroic virtue" for nothing. Indeed, the call to sainthood—sanctity—summons the baptized first to prayer and then to action. Often simultaneously.
This month, the feasts within the Catholic Church's liturgical calendar lend perspective to depths of sacrifice. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, on September 14, readily comes to mind as we contemplate the salvation won for us by Jesus on Calvary. On September 15, the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is recalled. September 20 commemorates the 19th-century Korean martyrs of Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon (Korea's first priest), Paul Chong Hasang, and companions. Finally, September 24 reminds us of the forty-nine Martyrs of Chalcedon who perished under Diocletian's reign in the 4th century.
You cannot get better role models embodying sacrificial love than Jesus and Mary, and the faithful martyrs of the Church who sought to imitate them.
We see in Mary the woman whose fiat at the Annunciation brought a surrender of her own will to the will of the Father. Her "yes" led to the Incarnation and the immense joy of God's Son come to earth. It also required, in part, a life that suffered what the Church traditionally labels as the Seven Sorrows of Mary. Each exacted various sacrifices in Mary's life; including her suffering what theologians call a white martyrdom at Calvary, the bloodless martyrdom that is a true offering of oneself. Still, we can envision her life as a series of many steps of faith leading up to that moment.
We can imagine the young Mother Mary, with tenderness, teaching her young son Jesus the ways of obedience. Demonstrating by her own fortitude that while giving one's "yes" may be costly, it is often it is the only response required.
Fast-forward, and we can see Jesus as a young rabbi, facing his own imminent death as he prays in Gethsemane. Sweating blood, the soon-to-be-Savior has a very human moment of struggle and anguish as he submits his flesh to the "yes" to do the Father's will.
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.