Monday, 26 September 2022

26 September, Antonio, Cardinal Bacci: Meditations For Each Day

The Sacrifices of Life

1. People make many sacrifices for the sake of the present life, to maintain health, to carve out a career, or to obtain money, success, and honours. If you are a student, what pains you take to get a degree so that you can establish yourself in society. If you are a labourer, look at the efforts you must make to obtain the necessities of life. If you are a business executive, how you are prepared to strive and strain in order to do better than your colleagues and gain promotion!

If you become ill, you spare neither expense nor effort in order to regain your health. You are even prepared to undergo a surgical operation if that is necessary to save your life.

But how many sacrifices do we make in order to do good or to become holy? We know that the present life is short and is only the forerunner of the true life, which is eternal. We should be able, then, to appreciate the profundity of this question of Jesus Christ: “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Mt. 16:26)

We are not forbidden to pay attention to worldly affairs. Very often, it is our duty to do so. But our first concern must always be to save our souls and those of our neighbours, because it was for this that God created us.

With this aim in mind, we should be prepared not only to make greater sacrifices than we make for the sake of our material welfare, but we should be prepared to die rather than offend God and expose ourselves to the danger of eternal damnation.

Let us reflect. What sacrifices have we made so far for our own sanctification and for the sanctification of others? What sacrifices do we propose to make in the near future?

2. When we say that we must be prepared to make any sacrifice, even to die, rather than offend God and risk eternal damnation, we mean exactly what we say. “If thy right eye is an occasion of sin to thee,” Jesus says in the Gospel, “pluck it out and cast it from thee; for it is better for thee that one of thy members should perish than that thy whole body should be thrown into hell. And if thy right hand is an occasion of sin to thee, cut it off and cast it from thee; for it is better for thee that one of thy members should be lost than thy whole body should go into hell.” (Mt. 5:29-30)

We are prepared to do all this when there is a question of preserving mortal life; we are prepared to undergo an amputation in order to avoid death. Are we prepared to do as much for eternal salvation?

Sometimes when we wish to set ourselves free from the danger of sin, we must deprive ourselves of things that are dear to us; we must suppress our natural instincts and affections, and we must impose on ourselves severe penances and bodily mortifications. All this is demanded from us by Jesus in these words which seem hard and almost cruel, but are none other than a just and necessary commandment. In certain grave cases, heroism is necessary for all.

3. The Saints looked for mortifications, sacrifices, and humiliations; they desired to suffer to show their love for Jesus and to conquer the disorderly inclinations of their bodies. By setting out on the way of penance and of the cross, they purified themselves and reached the summit of sanctity, step by step. What sacrifices and mortifications are we prepared to undertake? Remember that there are two things which we are obliged to do. (1) We must accept patiently from the hands of God all the sorrows, troubles and crosses which He sends us. (2) We must be prepared to take up our cross voluntarily and generously, at least when we realise that it is necessary or profitable for our salvation and sanctification.

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