In today’s Gospel Jesus talks about love and He gives us the two love commandments: “Love the Lord thy God and love thy neighbor.” And He says that Love means Sacrifice. With that in mind I wish to bring forward three saints who firmly believed that “Love means sacrifice.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first saint from the United States. She married a wealthy businessman in New York in 1794 and they had five children. Then his business went bankrupt and he died of tuberculosis shortly thereafter. Thus, Elizabeth had to make many sacrifices in order to support her family.
She had to endure many hardships including the death of two of her daughters. In spite of her many sufferings she was remembered as being cheerful and hopeful. Then, like her husband, she contracted tuberculosis and she died at the age of 46 in 1821.
St. Thomas More comes to mind when I hear the words: Love means sacrifice. His home was England and he lived in the 16th century. He stood up for the rights of the church when King Henry the Eighth said, “The church has no rights. Only the state has rights.”
Thomas was vocal in his disagreement with the King and the King killed him for voicing his concern that justice was not being done. Saint Thomas More offered the ultimate sacrifice when he defended the rights of the church.
Our third picture of sacrifice comes to us from the life of Sister Emanuel Chinquin. She was one of the Sisters of the Beatitudes and their headquarters are located in Belgium. Sister Emanuel was born in 1908 and died in 200 just one month short of being 100 years old.
Sister Emmanuel worked with the poor, first in Turkey and then in Egypt. When she moved to Egypt she lived with the poor - literally - in the garbage dumps of Cairo. It is a dark and dangerous place and even the police are afraid to go there. The people who live there find their food and clothing and shelter in the garbage piles.
Sister Emanuel said, “I live here because I want to constantly remind these people that they are good people and that they are daughters and sons of God.” “I like it here.” she said, “because this community is very friendly and spiritual. Everyone knows everyone by name. It’s not like living in the big city or the suburbs where people don’t know their neighbors. We have a wonderful spirit of sharing. When someone finds a pair of shoes in the dump they save it and give it to the person who has that size.” She saw herself as following the pattern of Jesus who found people on the highways and byways and brought them into his circle of friendship.
Today’s Gospel is about love. Jesus gave us the Two Great Love Commandments when He said, “Love the Lord thy God and love thy neighbor.”
Teachers always say, “The verb is the most important word in a sentence.” So today’s Gospel is the Love Gospel because Jesus says, “Love the Lord thy God and love thy neighbor.”
So, how do we love the Lord? First of all, by spending time in prayer each day. And secondly, by doing God’s will by obeying the Ten Commandments.
How do we love our neighbor? In two ways: by justice and by charity. Justice means that we do what is fair. Charity means that we do more than what is fair; we go the extra mile.
For example, Justice means that we give our children the food and shelter and education which they need to function as healthy children. Charity means that we give them unconditional love and our total support. In other words, we love them as God loves them.
Another example. Justice means that we provide food and shelter for those neighbors who are in need. Charity means that we get to know them personally and we take them into our circle of friendship. We are called to love them as God loves them. It might be difficult to bring certain people into our circle of friendship, but we do so because love means sacrifice.
The supreme sacrifice of all time was offered by Jesus on the Cross. Sometimes we say that the cross was his altar of sacrifice. His body was broken on the cross, so much did he love us. His blood was poured forth on the cross, so much did he love us. The cross was his altar of sacrifice.
Then he calls us to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. He calls us to take up bread and say his words from the Last Supper: “This is my body which will be broken for you.” He calls us to take up the cup of wine and say his words from the Last Supper: ”This is my blood which will be poured out for you.” The sacrifice of the Mass commemorates his sacrifice on the cross. Then Jesus says, “Do this in memory of me.” That means that we celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass in his memory. But it also means that we love God and love our neighbor in his memory.
I will close with a quick summary. Love means sacrifice. It means loving God and loving our neighbor without seeking any repayment. It means loving others without seeking any reward. Love means sacrifice.