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As a baptized child of the holy household of Heaven, may I please our heavenly Father in the example of Christ who faithfully fulfills the purpose for which He is sent (Is 55:11). - The Personal Rosary
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As a baptized child of the holy household of Heaven, may I please our heavenly Father in the example of Christ who faithfully fulfills the purpose for which He is sent (Is 55:11).

Why was it necessary for God to enter His creation to affect the salvation of His people? We say that He died for us but what was the price He paid that we could not? How would the world be different if Jesus never came to save us? The story begins with an understanding of the meaning of the word “covenant.” Giving credit where credit is due, my understanding of covenant was formed in reading the work of Dr Scott Hahn.

Many see Jesus on the Cross and think in juridical terms (He was condemned for our sins—1 Cor 15:3) or even contractual terms (He paid the price—Col 2:14), and these are true… but insufficient in themselves. They are perspectives offered for understanding but not the greater picture. He is the sacrificial offering of the New Covenant. The world understands the word covenant in contractural terms. It means more in theological understanding. A covenant is the forging of family bonds. We tend to use the word interchangeably with “contract” but there is an important distinction between them. A covenant differs from a contract as much as marriage differs from prostitution—one is family-making while the other is a business arrangement.

In the Creation account, God worked by days setting the conditions of this new reality (it was tohu wa-bohu— without form and void). He started by providing first the form and second the inhabitants to fill the void. In the first three days, He separated light from dark (day one), separated the waters above and below (day two) and gave us dry land with vegetation (day three). He then filled these realms; sun and moon (day four), birds and fish (day five), and animals and man (day six). He rested on the seventh day not out of fatigue but to mark his creation with a covenant… the number seven is a covenantal number. We broke this covenant through disobedience. While some see Original Sin as a stain passed down, it may be better understood as something we lost and could not regain ourselves. We lost our covenantal relationship with God… our kinship.

The failure of our first parents in the Garden of Eden didn’t just affect them. At each stage of creation, God pronounced His work “good” and even “very good”—after forming man in His own image and likeness (Gen 1). The goodness of creation was polluted by the sins of man. We who had been made to be like Him for communion with Him were no longer fit to enter Heaven lest Heaven become corrupt like the world. We had been intended for union with Him in a loving, family bond forged in the covenant of creation but we turned away from that relationship in our disobedience.

The pollution of sin became so great upon the Earth that God determined to wipe it all away and start over. Noah found favor with God (Gen 6:8) and he was saved along with his household. 

After the flood, the Earth had form and it wasn’t void. God set about rebuilding His family—following the same model as the first Creation. God made His first starting-over covenant with Noah and his family with the seven colors of the rainbow and a promise to not destroy the land again with a flood (Gen 9:8-17). God then made a covenant with Abraham in the form of a three-fold promise… the land, a nation and all men blessed through him (Gen 12:1-3). God affirmed His covenant with Isaac (because Abraham had another son, Ishmael—Gen 26:3). God confirmed His covenant again with Jacob—Israel—(because Isaac thought to pass his blessing through Esau—Gen 35:11-12). In these promises, the unbroken bloodline matters in fulfilling God’s promise, but it is God, not the earthly succession who confirmed the line His promise would follow. God then began to fulfill these promises… the land through Moses on Sinai, the royal dynasty of David, and all people through Christ on the Cross. Seven covenants just like the seven days of creation.

In each successive covenant, God expanded His family… from the family of Noah to the tribe of Abraham, to the 12 tribes of Israel, to the Nation under Moses to the Kingdom of David and then to all nations under Christ. What was Christ doing on the Cross? He was the sacrificial offering of the New Covenant where man could be rejoined to God’s family. Just as the neighbor kids can’t become part of my family on their own—I have to adopt them—so we couldn’t restore ourselves to God’s family. The New Covenant is a return to our participation in the family life of God!

We are given many examples in the Old Testament of family covenants through marriages, adoptions and others. In each, there is a sacrificial offering and sign of the covenant. In the New Covenant, we have our Lord as our offering and His body and blood in the Eucharist as our sign. Through the Church, every generation may belong to this covenant.

Just as we don’t delight in the accomplishments of the neighbor kids, so God did not delight in our vain offerings before our redemption. Now, through Christ, God does delight and reward our efforts. In so many places in the New Testament we find that God will reward us for our deeds (Rom 2:6). That is because Christ has merited for us the ability to merit from God. We are no longer strangers.

Christ on the Cross was at once a Priest offering a sacrifice, the sacrificial Lamb of the New Covenant, and the Bridegroom to His Church. Now, in order to be part of His family, we are commanded to believe. However, “believe” is an action word. It doesn’t mean that we have an intellectual understanding or a feeling… just as my kids believe that school is important for them—it doesn’t do them any good until they actually go to school and participate. If we BELIEVE that Jesus is Christ, then we are to DO the Will of His Father… beginning our life in God’s family through Baptism in His Holy Name.

Christ on the Cross isn’t the end from which there is no more to be done, it is the beginning from which all else is possible. It is more than paying the price for sinners, it is restoring lost family members to the Holy Family of God. We have been saved from the condemnation of sin and given eternal life in communion with God. We who have been restored are called to be witnesses to the world—in that witness is a call to martyrdom after the example of our Lord.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:14-17).

A martyr is a witness of Christ. A person who, though he has never seen nor heard the Divine Founder of the Church, is yet so firmly convinced of the truths of the Christian religion, that he gladly suffers death rather than deny it. Definitionally, a martyr is a witness. In application, it has come to be synonymous with those who witness unto death. The term has also been applied to those who have given up the living of their lives (suffering, imprisonment, grave hardship) for the cause of Christianity.

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom 12:1-2).

We don’t tend to seek out suffering. Our modern life is full of examples of our quest for comfort—from air conditioning to indoor plumbing. This is why the Church calls us to sacrificial offerings as part of our lives of faith. We have seasons of privation where we focus on fasting, almsgiving, and prayer (like Lent) and even weekly routines where we remember our Lord’s passion (each Friday). Through these we learn that love itself is a sacrificial offering. St Peter—immediately after our Lord called him a rock of faith—became like Satan when he tried to lure Jesus from the cross as Satan had tried in the desert. Our God is Love-personified. If we would have communion with Him, we must not think of our own comfort as the world does but offer ourselves in oblation for others.

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Matt 16:21-23).

For whom does a martyr sacrifice? Clearly, the martyr sacrifices for his faith in Jesus… but it is more than that. Faith in Jesus isn’t simply trusting Who He is… it is trusting in His Mission here on Earth. Jesus came to call all men to Himself. He opened the Gates of Heaven and sent us out to preach, teach and to Baptize in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the martyr’s witness is the reconciliation of sinners. The martyr’s prayer is for the salvation of his oppressors. What would it profit a martyr to desire the punishment of his persecutors? In living the second greatest commandment, the martyr doesn’t desire that his oppressors lose Heaven but rather that his sacrifice might gain their salvation.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct” (Matt 16:24-27).

We are the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-14) and where He led is where we must also go. We are to take up our own crosses and follow Him (Matt 16:24). The resounding message of the Bible is that salvation is ongoing through the sacrifices of Christ’s Body in the world… the Church. Christ is the Lamb of God offered as the Sacrifice of the New Covenant through which we have been reborn to God’s Holy Family. There is no further sacrifice to reforge this bond. He achieved the end for which He was sent (Is 55:11). However, history shows that sacrifices continue in the sufferings of the martyrs. That is because, as the Body of Christ, the Church continues His Work in the salvation of souls! We participate in these sacrifices with our time, talent and treasures. In these sacrifices great and small, we are participating in the life of the Church and furthering Her Mission. We give of our talents and treasure in what we can do and what we have. We give of our time in spending it with others—in study and in prayer.

 

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom 8:18-21).

What converted the Roman Empire? The blood of the martyrs. Throughout history, this is how those who persecuted the Church have come to join with Her. It is also how many great theologians have been formed (i.e. the sacrifices of St Monica for St Augustine). Indeed, from St Augustine’s Confessions we read, “In place of a basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of purer petitions, and to give all that she could to the poor – so that the communion of the Lord’s body might be rightly celebrated in those places where, after the example of his passion, the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned.”

Denying our call to sacrifice for the sins of others is a denial of our identity as the Body of Christ.

Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man…. the fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does ‘head and members’ mean? Christ and the Church (St Augustine).

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Todays Reflection

The Sorrowful mysteries

The Sorrowful Mysteries are the greatest love story ever told. No man has greater love than to die for his friends ( John 15:13 )... how much greater the love when dying for his torturers! What is love if not self-denial for someone else? What is self-denial without sacrifice? Christ was crucified, died, and was buried for us while we were yet sinners. He suffered a death we deserve. Sinless Himself, He took on our shame and bore it in His flesh. We are called to take up our crosses and follow His example of sacrificial love.

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