In a little over a week’s time we will celebrate Easter; an important time for all Christians to stop, gather and remember the suffering and death of Jesus. His ultimate sacrifice.
Sacrifice is not a word to be used lightly. It means giving yourself to other people. Sometimes that can be done directly, as in giving blood or an organ transplant.
More often it is done through symbols. You give to a friend your ticket to the grand final in which your team is playing. All gifts are sacrifices — they transfer something of ourself to another person.
The closer to our heart the gift of ourself is the more pain we are likely to feel at giving it up. We become very vulnerable. That is why we speak of Jesus’ death as a sacrifice. In dying he gave his life to us, risking his reputation, his dignity and his future. To offer to die for someone is the most complete sacrifice.
For that reason, soldiers’ deaths are sometimes called a sacrifice. Their lives are given to their nation.
As Anzac Day approaches we shall hear much of this sacrifice. It can sometimes conceal the greater loss of women who lost their sons and husbands, children who lost parents and civilians who lost lives and limbs in wars they did not choose or want.
For many of us, though, the ordinary gifts, the ordinary sacrifices, consist of our cash. In Lent many of us give money to campaigns such as Project Compassion. Others recently participated in the Oxfam 100km walk. They cheerfully endured pain in order to help others who themselves suffer from poverty in our world.
In the coming days we will hear much about the coming federal election. But you aren’t likely to hear much about sacrifice. Already each of the two major parties has promised much if it is elected. Each promises additional money to electors’ hip pockets and benefit to their lifestyles.
This, one might argue, is in the nature of a democratic society. Always, winners and losers. And the biggest losers are always people who are disadvantaged.
Politicians rarely invite us to give something to people who are worse off than ourselves, to sacrifice ourselves for the common good. They rarely appeal to our generosity, to rise above reluctance and resentment to cheerful giving.
Easter is about sacrifice, about generosity. Through Jesus’ suffering and death came new life. It is a gift which we are offered, and which we share with others in those small daily sacrifices we make.
Some of us may give up meat on Good Friday and even fast. That too is a small sacrifice in which we allow our spirits to become that little bit more open, free and generous.
Fr Brian F. McCoy SJ, Provincial