“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NRSV
I read a reflection from St. Lucia….so much light and life. Advent and Christmas are so different. Jesus comes into the world, not in the best of circumstance, but still in the arms of a loving mother and a protective earthly father. He is surrounded by gentle creatures, hard working men from the fields, even kings. He is much like us. Divine yes, but also very human. He has a family and acquires friends. He comes to know the labor of one’s hands and the love that inhabits the best human hearts.
Then there is Lent. Cold, aloof Lent. Alone in the wilderness and taken to a high mountain. Foreboding places. Places that inspire, but also frighten. Places where he was alone until met by the tempter. Alone until he finally has company and someone who can give him everything from power to kingdoms. Only these things He does not desire. The price is too high, anyway. Our salvation is in the balance and that is a sacrifice he will not make.
For our salvation the sacrifice must be much greater.
Now we are approaching the time of that sacrifice . Jesus refused power and privilege that our salvation be maintained, but now he must sacrifice those greater things that are His and not the tempter’s that our salvation be made complete.
It could not have been easy looking into the eyes of Mother Mary, John, Peter, and the Magdalene. The kingdoms of the world must pale in the presence of such personalities. To reject a kingdom is one thing, to leave the presence of family, friendship, and life itself is quite another.
Faced with wealth and power it must be somewhat difficult to say, “go away.” But as difficult as that is, it must be infinitely more difficult not to say “go away” to the awesome demand of the heavenly Father. “Your will be done” is the most terrifying line we ever utter and He said it before any of us.
The road to Calvary took him back to the garden and to the mountain. On a gentle slope he asked that the cup be removed before saying that he would succumb to the will of the Father. His friends slept while he said these things. Already the desertion of life was beginning. Already the sacrifices were being made. And we know from here the sacrifice becomes all the greater.
Why do we have our sacrifices at Lent? Perhaps to participate in His, but do we really think of how terrible a price that may be? What if we are told that instead of chocolate or meat or alcohol that we were called to leave behind love and human community? What if we are told to leave behind life itself? We would be quick to say no. But what if at the same time we are told that the only way to truly love others is to leave them behind. It is rare indeed and it is rarely asked of us because it is the domain of only the very strong. And when asked of us, it involves only another or perhaps a few. Such a thing was asked of Christ and not just the sacrifice of and for another or a few, but of all those He calls friends. And the names of his friends are all God’s children.
Cold sacrificial Lent. How wonderful that our sacrifices are smaller than His. Most give up small things that deprive their cravings and moments of happiness and a few give up truly great things that deprive them of the good gifts of creation and even joy itself , but only One has given up everything. It is time to think on this thing. The cross is near and the beautiful and horrendous sacrifice is soon to be made.