Thursday, April 1, 2010

On this most Holy Thursday...

I was doing a reflection tonight after attending Holy Thursday Mass, on suffering. I thought a lot about how Christ suffered for me and my sins. It reminded me to check out one of my favorite websites, Love that sight, and I found this to help with my reflection:

"We are members of the Royal Priesthood, together as one in the Mystical Body of Christ

Just as in the Old Testament, Israel of the New Covenant is made of priests:

I Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare his virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Who in times past were not a people: but are now the people of God. Who had not obtained mercy: but now have obtained mercy.

Our being (non-ministerial) priests means that we make sacrifices, we offer something. The ordained Catholic priest offers, as a representative of Christ, Sacrifices at the Altar for those who say "yes" to Christ's invitation to share the fruits of Calvary, just as the ministerial priests in the Old Testament offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. But what do we of the non-ministerial royal priesthood offer? We offer ourselves -- our bodies, hearts, praise, gratitude, worship, joys, works, and our sufferings.

Why do we do this? Because we are exhorted to "put on Christ" and to imitate Him, our High Priest and Spotless Victim, so that we might partake of the divine nature. In order to redeem us, Our Lord took on flesh and gave all to the Father; in order to be Christ-like, we, too, must take up our cross, accept suffering, and strive to offer Him all:

Luke 14: 27
And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

II Corinthians 4:8-12
In all things we suffer tribulation: but are not distressed. We are straitened: but are not destitute. We suffer persecution: but are not forsaken. We are cast down: but we perish not. Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake: that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us: but life in you.

Galatians 6: 14
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.
Philippians 3:8-11
Furthermore, I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ. And may be found in him, not having my justice, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ Jesus, which is of God: justice in faith. That I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings: being made conformable to his death, If by any means I may attain to the resurrection which is from the dead.

I Peter 2:19-22
For this is thankworthy: if, for conscience towards God, a man endure sorrows, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, committing sin and being buffeted for it, you endure? But if doing well you suffer patiently: this is thankworthy before God. For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps.

Think of Christ in the Garden, under so much stress and agony that He literally sweated Blood. Think of Him being hounded and mocked by people who should have fallen to their knees and kissed His Feet, adoring Him and begging mercy. Think of the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars with a crown of thorns thrust onto His head, being spat upon, beaten, and nailed to a Cross. God Himself suffered in His human nature; why should we be spared?

...And now think of Him in Heaven, pouring out onto us the graces of His once and for all Sacrifice at Calvary during the unbloody re-presentation of that Sacrifice during the Mass. He is perfect, He suffered (His Sacred Heart is still wounded by our sins!), and He offers Himself yet up to the Father at each Mass -- and to us for our redemption. We are called to offer ourselves up to the Father and for others, too.

Our imitation of Him and our gifts to Him, though they are nothing without His Sacrifice, build up the Body of Christ if they are joined to His sufferings:

I Corinthians 12:26
And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it: or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.
Colossians 1:23b-24
...whereof I Paul am made a minister. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the church:

Now, is Paul saying that Christ's sufferings and Sacrifice weren't enough? Is he "taking away from Christ" by saying that we are to "fill up" those things that are "wanting" in His sufferings? No, of course not. He is saying, though, that we are One Body, that we co-operate with God in profound ways ( I Corinthians 3:9 "For we are God's coadjutors [co-workers, assistants]..."), and that, in an inscrutable way, our sufferings benefit one another. We actually help Jesus in His redemption of the world by giving to Him our sufferings to build up the Body of Christ.

Think of how we are moved by those who suffer for us. We are touched when we think of what our parents sacrificed to give us, when we think of stories of people who give kidneys to strangers or risk their lives to save someone else. Christ Himself said that "greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Well, just as we are moved by sacrificial love when it is offered to us, the Father is moved by our offered-up sufferings when they are offered along with the Passion and Sacrifice of Jesus. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote (Summa Theologica, III, 49):

Now it is the proper effect of sacrifice to appease God: just as man likewise overlooks an offense committed against him on account of some pleasing act of homage shown him. Hence it is written (1 Kings. 26:19): "If the Lord stir thee up against me, let Him accept of sacrifice." And in like fashion Christ's voluntary suffering was such a good act that, because of its being found in human nature, God was appeased for every offense of the human race with regard to those who are made one with the crucified Christ...

Just as Moses, a type of Christ, suffered for his people to appease God --

Deuteronomy 9:15-20:
And when I came down from the burning mount, and held the two tables of the covenant with both hands, And saw that you had sinned against the Lord your God, and had made to yourselves a molten calf, and had quickly forsaken his way, which he had shewn you: I cast the tables out of my hands, and broke them in your sight. And I fell down before the Lord as before, forty days and nights neither eating bread, nor drinking water, for all your sins, which you had committed against the Lord, and had provoked him to wrath: For I feared his indignation and anger, wherewith being moved against you, he would have destroyed you. And the Lord heard me this time also. And he was exceeding angry against Aaron also, and would have destroyed him, and I prayed in like manner for him.

-- we, too, can offer our sufferings for others. When given to God along with the Perfect Oblation (Christ) offered to the Father at the Mass, our offerings and sufferings are sanctified and put to use."

So, tomorrow as I fast and abstain from meat... I offer it up to God.  To draw me closer to Him.  To help me remember Him when I am hungry, when I desire meat, when I want to give up (it is only one day, but still... I know myself!).  You will be my food, my comfort, my refuge Lord.



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