In the dim light I could see Jesus: head bowed, arms stretched wide open upon the crucifix on the wall, a cherished gift from our wedding day. Just beneath the feet of Jesus, a wooden frame displayed a much younger bride and groom gazing into each other's eyes, unaware as yet of how proximate the love of the cross would be to their own. Next to the wedding photo, my favorite person dropped down to sit in our old comfy chair. His head bowed as he leans over, stretching lanky arms to reach the laces of his dress shoes. He is preparing to catch yet another early flight for business travels.
I am still in bed taking in this little scene against the backdrop of the cross of Christ and my marriage memories. And suddenly I'm wondering about Eden and just what it meant when God said man would now earn his bread "by the sweat of his face" (Gen. 3:19). And I find myself moved by this man of mine, who faithfully bears that burden in the early morning hour.
And in the next moment, a holy clarity comes into view—Someone Else was Once So Moved—and the words of Jesus echo in the example of my spouse: "This is my body, given up for you" (Lk. 22:19).
And I wondered how many other people were making sacrifices on behalf of someone else in that moment. I'm sure many were up before the first light, whether by choice or by duty.
There are babies to be nursed, hands to be held, fields to be plowed, meals to be made, trains to catch, and all-night care in the local Emergency Room. There are soldiers standing guard, police and firefighters keeping watch, and a third shift needing a fresh pot of coffee. Somewhere someone is receiving the last rites and Viaticum. And in every case, someone is up in the wee hours tending to what is needed.
Sure, some folks might say there is nothing heroic or special about what they do to provide for those they love, or to keep a stable home, or to keep the bills paid. But what is heroic is the faithfulness in which they do it. The giving up and the laying down of a million and one sacrifices made every day and every night. "This is my body, given up for you."
This is the sacrifice that we bring to the pew at Mass. We kneel, we pray, we offer. We gaze at the blanched corpus of the Savior, no longer bleeding, for it is drained of every last ounce of blood for the sins of the world. Now, it is poured out in a new way.
The priest's voice breaks in again with the clear truth as he elevates the Host: "This is my body, given up for you."
I gaze at the Eucharist being offered by the priest unmistakably positioned under the crucifix that hangs from the rafters in our church. I smile a wry grin as I lift my prayers, for I am learning.
A broken body is no longer repugnant; it resembles the sacrifices of many people I know. They all just happen to look like Jesus.
The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the "one mediator between God and men".1 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, "the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery" is offered to all men.2 He calls his disciples to "take up [their] cross and follow [him]",3 for "Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps."4 (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 618)*
- 1 Timothy 2:.
- Gaudium et Spes 22 § 5; cf. § 2. (From the Documents of Vatican II)
- Matthew 16: 24
- 1 Peter 2: 21.