St. James reminds us today that faith without works is dead. We should know that it is not enough to just believe, and to show up for church every Sunday—those actions are not enough to be our best selves and to be part of God’s intentions for us. We must live the Gospel—witness the Gospel in the world— commissioned by our Baptism to “teach” by our own personal examples of commitment to our faith by our actions in love, forgiveness, charity and sacrifice.
Sacrifice is always the challenge for us: to be tired but to visit an aged relative anyway; to rise in the night when worm out from work to comfort a terrified child; to go to work and support your family even when the work is soul-killing; to put aside what we enjoy doing to take care of needed chores and tasks…the list is endless. All our moments are about how we choose to spend them—and they show who we are and what we believe. Jesus in the Gospel today accuses us of “not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.” We are called to “Lift High the Cross” in moments of self-denial that show who we are as His disciples. This is never easy—but we must continue being practicing Christians in all we say and do.
I looked up the word sacrifice (thank you, Webster) and found this: an act of offering to God something precious; to surrender something for the sake of something (or someone) else… On the way to sacrifice I passed by sacred and thought how in our faith these two ideals are conjoined. Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice and we are called to emulate that example in the many ways we can—although it is not often that we see a sacrifice to the death. (Thank you to those military persons who lost their lives in Afghanistan helping others to leave the country!) Any sacrifice made for others is sacred—offered up to God—even the every day small things we do for each other.
The sign of the cross always reminds us of the emblem of our belief. We begin all liturgical and Para-liturgical celebrations, blessings, and prayers with this sign. In Baptism we are signed by the cross, we are anointed with it in Confirmation and in the Sacrament of the Sick. On Ash Wednesday we make the sign of the cross in ashes on our foreheads. We understand we must follow Jesus’ example and take up our own cross in order to live lives of hope—to live in the new life we are promised, making those sacred sacrifices to which we are called.
We gather today in the midst of all joy, sorrow, gratitude, and burden. Each day we are given the opportunity to lift our crosses high; this symbol of our salvation whose mark we carry. We believe in its power to destroy death and restore life. This is the core of our faith; to embrace the cross and its ability to transform death into life.
Our final hymn today (Lift High the Cross) has a verse that says: “Each newborn fol’lwer of the Crucified, bears on the brow the seal of him who died. Lift high the cross! The cross of Christ proclaim!” To paraphrase the “Workbook for Lectors and Gospel Readers” (another Liturgical Ministry!), we must grow up as Christians and step beyond just trying to be good people; we must also be good for people. How to do this? Sacre sacrifices. Lift High the Cross!
Just a Note: Time is passing and flying quickly by—please don’t forget to seriously discern your mission and ministry here at St. Aidan. All our Staff is looking for committed volunteers for all of the liturgical groups and ensembles. Consider joining and sharing your gifts and talents! I am looking for interested singers for my ensembles (both the young and the youthful), for instrumentalists (particularly another guitarist or two and a bassist). Please come and see me: make a joyful sacrifice of time to enhance our St. Aidan worship.
Another Note: Here is a song about sacrifice, enjoy!