As we recall the greatest of sacrifices for love, it is wise to convert our experiences and thoughts to the currency of Calvary, which are service, sacrifice, suffering and justice.
What good are we on this earth if not to serve as many people as best we can? Is not such service the most fulfilling experience one can have? Does not following Our Lord entail serving others in unselfish, generous and sincere love?
Service is not the target of being a good Christian. Rather, it is simply the starting point, for the only target that matters is God and Christ has shown us that service to others is one path to God and the salvation He offers us if we wish to earn that salvation.
Service implies unselfish humility for one cannot serve without thinking of the other and to serve is to humble oneself to the needs of the other. It is enough and conclusive that Christ came to serve us despite being our Lord in order to model what we should do. Even as He sacrificed out of love, He served. We can do no less despite our comparably modest ability to do so.
To sacrifice means to give up oneself for another, which is the ultimate expression of love and the epitome of humility as well. Just as the ancients sacrificed to God as an expression of their love, commitment, loyalty and dedication to Him, so too we must never cease to offer what we have, what we do, what we feel and what we intend to do to Him as sacrifice as well.
To sacrifice also means to voluntarily place oneself at a disadvantage in the eyes of this world in order to place oneself at an advantage in the eyes of God. When we sacrifice what is of this world in deference to what is of the next we express our trust and faith that eternal salvation is not found in the immediate, temporary or superficial but, rather, in the long-term, permanent and profound. Ultimately, we are what we sacrifice for. Surrounded by a world that sacrifices for money, power, fame, lust and earthly pleasure, we must steadfastly continue to sacrifice for God Almighty.
Much has been written about the value of suffering and rightly so, for it is the purifying agent which has the potential to bring us much closer to God than we ever thought possible. However, it is valuable to note that we can suffer externally or internally.
External suffering is often caused by others and, in the wise observation of a close friend, is often directly proportional to our goodness toward those very people who cause us suffering.
In other words, the more loving, merciful, generous, kind, forgiving, helpful and unselfish we are toward many people, the more uncaring, unmerciful, stingy, unkind, unforgiving, resentful, unhelpful and selfish they may be toward us. Their evil toward us is commensurate with our goodness toward them. What greater example do we need than that of the Christ of Calvary, Whose epic love was met with equally epic hatred, brutality and cruelty? If He who loved as no other has was responded to with as much hatred, ingratitude and evil as no other has experienced, what other evidence do we need?
If those of us who try our feeble best to deserve and respond as we should to that love still manage to cause Him so much suffering, what can be said of those who do not care to serve, deserve or respond to that love in the first place? How pathetic from an earthly perspective is a love so inadequately responded to that it suffers wounds from even those who least want to wound it?
Given the fact that the more we love, the more we may suffer for that love, it is easy to see that one cannot be a true Christian unless one is willing to love without expecting anything in return. For the true Christian, love is a gift to offer and not a bargain to exchange. This is why the earthly focus will never understand Calvary. Such a focus cannot explain such a love because it measures the value of love in terms of expected returns. This is also why those who do nor care do not suffer externally as much if at all.
If external suffering is often caused by dark responses to our efforts of light, then what of internal suffering? Unlike external suffering, which is directly proportional to how much we love, internal suffering is directly proportional to how much we do not love.
If we do not love God as we should, we sin and thus suffer internally. If we do not love others as we should, we hurt them and suffer internally through guilt, remorse, resentment, ingratitude, a lack of forgiveness and the like. If we do not love ourselves as we should, we suffer through hopelessness, helplessness, despair, and surrender.
There is a reason that internal suffering such as feelings of revenge only serve to consume, enslave and, ultimately, destroy us. That is because internal suffering leads us away from God while external suffering can lead us right to Him if used constructively and perceptively.
Ultimately, external suffering is the suffering of Christ at the hands of those He loves and internal suffering is the suffering of Judas and, to a lesser extent, Peter, at the hands of their own human weakness. The only difference between Judas and Peter is that Judas never loved his God, others or himself enough to recover from his weakness and ask forgiveness while Peter loved his God, others and himself enough to humbly believe in God's mercy and ultimately lead the Church.
Much of our suffering may be seen as a reaction to or a result of perceived injustice. We suffer when we feel that we have been treated unfairly, ungratefully or inaccurately.
We seek our fair share, our just desserts and what we expect from an exchange or interaction. If we serve, we expect appreciation. If we share, we expect sharing in return. If we achieve, we expect recognition. If we are good, we expect salvation.
My close friend also observed that there is a divine, eternal pendulum in life or, as some put it, the perception that “what goes around comes around”. Ultimately, much of our suffering comes from arrogance, pride, mistrust or a lack of faith. We feel that we do not deserve this or that injustice. We feel offended when treated in this or that way. We despair over this and that situation. In the end, much of our suffering is a response to perceived injustice in some form.
If we trust God, if we see Him as the Just Judge Who will have the final say, much of our suffering, our anxiety, our despair, our anger and our stress will be relieved. Why should we imagine that we can bring justice to our lives when we cannot even demonstrate justice to our God? Why should we who are weak sinners expect fair treatment in this world when He who never sinned was and continues to be treated unfairly by an ungrateful, arrogant and confused world?
In the end, we must leave justice to God. We must surrender everything to His Will with the firm trust and faith that He will bring the unjust to their knees and the victimized to their feet. Is that not the ultimate message of Easter?
The recent controversy and debates over Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ clearly demonstrated that much of this society and this world are clueless about the currency of Calvary. This blind society cannot see love in tears and blood. It cannot see service without apparent, earthly compensation. It cannot see sacrifice for the benefit of the ungrateful. It cannot see suffering as the common compensation for love. Finally, it cannot see justice in eternal terms but only in immediate, temporal tones.
The Catholic Church has always suffered but, in the past, much of its suffering was an external, martyred suffering resulting from its love, thereby modeling that of Christ. The early Christians were persecuted because they loved as Christ loves and not as man loves.
The Church during the times of Henry VIII suffered for the same reason, leading to schism rather than capitulation, compromise and rationalization. Yes, there were internal sufferings caused by confusion, dissidence and defiance but, generally, the Church largely overcame these wounds.
The present American Catholic Church, however, is experiencing internal suffering caused by its own failure to remain loyal to and abide by the Word and Will of God Almighty. Its present pain is the result of its present sin and increasing dilution into a sea of rationalization, radical feminism, New Ageism, secularism, modernism, liberalism and even socialism and Marxism.
Tragically, the present Catholic Church has converted its currency from that of Calvary to that of convenience, cowardice, corruption and compromise. When we have as many if not more so-called Catholic women than non-Catholic women having abortions, clueless Catholic frauds applauding and cheering pro-abortion politician Barack Obama and increasing numbers of Catholics voting for The Demonic Democratic Party of Death and Deception, we have a major problem. We have moved from Cafeteria Catholics to Catholics in Name Only (CINOs) to Catholic Frauds within a short while. Evil forces and distorted Catholics are jumping over the borders of our sacred Faith; stomping on our true doctrines, sacred liturgies and core beliefs; and hoisting the flag of defiance, blasphemy, sacrilege and hellish revolution.
They are seeking earthly legitimacy while losing their heavenly one. They are seeking guest Catholic status while trespassing on the faith they claim to represent. No matter what their claims or boastful qualifications are, they are undocumented in paradise.
To make matters worse, many of those crying “I will not serve” as the devil did long ago are precisely those false shepherds entrusted with the flock and religious entrusted with the example of Christ. Enough with dissident priests advocating evil and twisted doctrine into their personal subjective pretzels. Enough with nuns chanting and cavorting like witches and palm readers around gongs, tarots and diagrams. Enough with the widespread mockery of Christ that has become the Catholic Church today. Many people are conducting their so-called Catholic faith in a business-as-usual-manner despite their fake storefronts, false advertising and defective product, but the ultimate Consumer Advocate of all, God Almighty, has found the new business brand of Catholicism morally bankrupt and lacking in the currency of Calvary.
Without the currency of Calvary we cannot obtain the eternal salvation that was purchased there for each of us. Without the currency of Calvary we will be found morally, spiritually and eternally bankrupt before the Eyes of God. The choice of Calvary is the daily choice all Christians must make. That choice is between standing by the battered, mocked and rejected Christ as His loyal follower or blending into the crowd of His detractors as yet another suffering betrayer and fraud.
Sadly, the ranks of those mocking Christ are steeped in eyes pretending to look upward, ears pretending to hear truth and tongues pretending to speak fidelity to our Faith. Tragically, the brand name of true Catholicism has been cheapened with false products, diluted goods and defective workmanship. Worst of all, the blind sheep are being led by morally blind shepherds and religious who have kept their promise to lead, but have chosen to lead away from Christ rather than toward Him. Increasingly, false Catholic leaders searching for a ton of excuses, rationalizations and interpretations cannot find an ounce of courage. Conveniently, lazy Catholics looking for a holiday from their Faith are increasingly finding it in the new Club Med of their local parish churches.
The new Catholicism is much about escape, delusion, distortion and irresponsibility. It has everything to do with pretending that salvation and suffering can be separated as morality and leadership and church and state are absurdly proclaimed to be. Ultimately, we will all suffer. If we transact with the currency of this world, that suffering will lead us away from God. However, if we convert our currency to that of Calvary, our suffering will surely lead us to Him.
In the end, the Cross will forever be our crossroads, its nails will forever be the point of suffering and its presence will forever be the symbol of Calvary's currency.
By Gabriel Garnica
March 24, 2007