April 10th, 2020

The Perfect Sacrifice

An excerpt from ‘Suspended in Mystery’

May Jesus bring you close to Himself on Good Friday.

Today we contemplate his death. He suffered for each of us and also for all those we love. Because we often tend to view ourselves in a harsh and negative light, we might take some time to examine how Jesus views us.

From the cross, we know that Jesus saw John, standing next to his mother. Is it possible that Jesus scanned John for flaws as he died a cruel death? This seems unthinkable. More likely, Jesus must have felt the most overwhelming gratitude for John. It had not been an easy road. Being part of a start-up spiritual movement brought significant highs and lows, and many had fallen away. John remained. John showed up on Good Friday and stayed, as we teach, even into and through the passion.

My friends, many people are terribly hard on themselves and this can make them hard on others, too. While we must challenge ourselves when it comes to mistakes and sins, Jesus does not expect that we will be perfect. Jesus did not die so that we would be perfect. He died so that we would be saved. He hopes that we will follow him, imperfectly, yes, but faithfully. Most of us are doing just that. In many ways we, too, have showed up and stayed – in marriages, vocations, as parents, as children caring for parents, as siblings and friends. Most of us reading this have showed up and stayed to the best of our ability in our Catholic faith life or at least in some kind of relationship with God.

Yet, many Christians carry a nagging, pervasive feeling that they are not good enough, and that because they are not the perfect spouse or parent or son or daughter or employee or student, they are failures. Many seem to feel that because they live their vocations imperfectly, they receive no credit from God, no gratitude from God for doing so. This is distorted. God is grateful to us. He knows that we can only do a thing to the best of our ability on any given day. We, too, carry crosses. It can be hard to be elegant in relationships with self, others, and God when we are suffering trials, both great and small. Often it is those times when we look our worst that we are actually extending the greatest offerings to God. In moments when we feel like total failures, it is possible we are actually living some of our finest hours, like Jesus Christ, dying on the cross.

Perhaps our expectations of ourselves need to be examined.

To extend this concept to others, many look at spouses, children, family members, and friends with an expectation that these people should be perfect. People can feel chronic disappointment that the people around them exhibit imperfections, or that they are not following a direct worldly trajectory for success, or simply that they have opinions which differ from their own. This way of thinking inhibits our ability to love. People die, all people, having lived imperfect lives. How many of us stare into the space where once a loved one sat and wonder why we expected them to be perfect? Why do we think anyone can be perfect? We must love people despite their imperfections and look hard at others for the beauty and light they possess. to be clear, there are no perfect families, marriages, or vocations. there are no perfect governments, no perfect days, and no perfect lives.

But today, right now, we do contemplate something perfect. We contemplate the perfect sacrifice, offered with a perfectly pure agenda by a man sharing divinity with our Father who lived a spotless life. While we accept that we are not God, we know that we can transform in Christ Jesus by studying Him. This will make us more like him in our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with God Himself. This is the job, to be servants to his love. Perhaps today, as we stare at the cross, we can view ourselves with compassion, rejoicing that we are good enough for God and that our instincts and choices have brought us once again to the foot of his earthly throne, the cross, to stand by him with loyalty and fidelity, imperfect though we may be.

We must remember. We are loved infinitely.