This is a reflection that I recently gave for some students:
|"Ecce Homo" ("Behold the Man") by Antonio Ciseri|
We all need courage, we are desperate for encouragement. We are so insecure, looking for a sign of success, like the mother of James and John who asked for her sons to sit at the right and the left of Jesus.
Why do we need courage and affirmation? Why is what we get never enough? Perhaps it’s because our world is so shattered, that we feel so shattered. Maybe our parents got a divorce, maybe haven’t gotten as good of grades as we hoped, maybe we can’t seem to find someone to share our life with. Yes, we need courage. And from where does our courage come? And what do we do with courage once we have it?
Jesus told His followers before His arrest: “Take courage; I have conquered the world.” Strange words from someone who is about to be executed. Indeed, Jesus has courage. Courage enough to offer himself as a victim. It is that which I want to talk with you about tonight: the connection between victory and victimhood.
Jesus was ultimately confident in His relationship with the Father. He knew who he was to God. He too was a man of weakness and sorrows, but He fundamentally was strong in his sense of who He was to God. He also had a trust that in union with God He was doing God’s will. Thus He heard the words at His Baptism, “You are my Son with whom I am well pleased.” Can there be any victory greater than that?
Last night the cook at the Jesuit residence, who is a strong Christian, told me that “we should not live for victory, but live from victory.” What is the difference? Living for victory is all about achieving great things. Living from victory is about receiving great things already done. As our cook and I talked about, the ball has already been hit out of the park. But we still have to run the bases. For me in college, by seeing The Passion of the Christ and thinking about the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice, it finally hit me that God had done everything for me. How could I not do anything for Him? How could I not sacrifice?
Sacrifice requires being in a sense a victim. We all cringe at this word. This is not about being victimized. This is not bout sado-masochism. This is about suffering out of love. Our culture hates the idea that suffering is worthwhile, even redemptive. But Christ, who “gave His life as a ransom tells us to take up our cross.” Think of Armageddon, where the father ends of allowing himself to die on the incoming asteroid rather than have the entire earth be blown up. Think about Mother Teresa dedicating her life to picking up “the untouchables” off the street, left to die like animals, and giving them a look of love before they left this life. Think of the sacrifices your own parents have made, your teachers and priests have made. Think of the sacrifice you will make.
Yes, we are called to be what St. Therese the Little Flower called “little victims,” offering ourselves for the sake of souls, of God, of the Church, wherever we are at in life. We can only make such an offering if we are confident in who we are as victorious sons and daughters of God and co-heirs with Christ. We must live from the victory Christ has won for us, and join every joy, work, prayer, and suffering of our lives to His victory, which is expressed most fully in the Holy Mass.
But how can we live out this victorious victim-hood? I recommend self-denial, choosing to give up something for the greater good. That’s part of Lent and the whole Christian life. Above all, give up the seven deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, sloth, wrath, envy, and gluttony. Give up your fear and your worry. Often give up some good things too, such as watching TV, eating dessert, being on Facebook. Offer these things in union with Christ, the true Victim and Victor.