The Cross without Christ is Sacrifice Without Love

Many men who discern the priesthood read the timeless classic, “A Priest is Not His Own” by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. In addition to being a wonderfully rich account of what constitutes priestly identity, most especially diocesan priestly identity and spirituality; the title of this book is well chosen; appropriate for our reflection today. Lent as a penitential season is one where we place a little more focus in our faith on sacrifice than what we have received. We don’t become consumed in sacrifice, because that wouldn’t be balanced, but with an emphasis, it’s also an important time for people to really consider their vocations in life, because vocations like the Cross require it. We are not in this world simply for ourselves. The priest is not his own, and his vocation is one of self-giving and sacrifice for others; but that makes it more, not less rewarding. In another one of his great writings, Archbishop Sheen offers us this: “The Cross without Christ is sacrifice without love”. We sacrifice because we love. We give and give because we love, not because we hope to get something in return. We have to flex our ‘sacrificial muscles’ so to speak, so they don’t atrophy; that is we need to practice, reflect, even fail sometimes in order to get better at giving. Lent helps us to do that. There isn’t an authentic vocation out there that doesn’t require the heroic Christian virtue of sacrificial love, but as a Vocation Director sharing my own thoughts and reflections here today, I ask all of our young men out there to consider priesthood. I encourage you to read Archbishop Sheen’s book and other good books on priesthood and be inspired. Don’t be misled, but be inspired. Priesthood is a vocation of sacrificial love but it’s truly a beautiful vocation and one which offers the priest to see God’s glory every day. To see Jesus Christ at work in the world every day. Jesus gives us all the most profound call to action, call to discernment we will hear in today’s Gospel: “if anyone want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”. He does not tell us only to ponder His Cross, which we should, we draw strength for ourselves from it. He tells us to take up our own crosses daily and follow Him. He does not sugar coat anything for us; Jesus doesn’t tell us we should want or will have an easy life. He looks to us who want to follow Him as men and women with strength of character and person, He tells us what we have to do, and calls us. It’s little wonder in a world of 7 ½ billion people, there are less than 1 billion who are followers of Christ, and even less who are truly prepared to follow an even deeper call. This is why the number of priests and religious are in the hundreds of thousands only. Jesus knows not everyone is going to follow Him, but He invites the strong and faithful nonetheless. Are you one of them? Let us reflect today with the Lenten theme of sacrifice and vocational discernment on what the Lord in His great love might be calling upon us to do, and respond with great generosity to Him. May God bless you.

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