I am not sure when we came to a place where we thought our faith was to be without sacrifice, and was to be filled with happy and joy-filled thoughts. Now, don’t get me wrong, we should be filled with great joy in receiving our Lord in the Eucharist and in living out our vocations in our daily lives, but every day is not filled with sunshine and roses.
When was the last time you went to the gym or went on a run and the entire experience felt like bliss? I can’t think of a single one, and I have logged a lot of miles in my day! The bliss comes only after the agony of training, the sacrifice of watching what you eat and what you drink, hours of dedication, and the pain of sore and aching muscles. I can confidently say that no great athlete in the history of the world came to their place in physical fitness without great sacrifice. But, they knew that the journey was worth it because with great sacrifice comes great reward.
Seek as we may to find shortcuts to fitness and weight-loss, nothing works better than sacrifice, prudence, and hard work. The same holds true for us in our faith life. I have had many a discussion with individuals who see the teachings and “rules” of the Catholic Church as burdensome and as requiring of too much sacrifice. I am not going to tell you that being Catholic is without sacrifice. Surely, great sacrifice is involved. We make sacrifices in our careers as we lose promotions to others who are willing to lie and cheat and steal to get ahead. We make sacrifices for our children as we say “no” to devoting our Sundays to sporting events and practices because we know that Sunday is meant for Mass, prayer, and time as a family. We make sacrifices as a family when we donate to the poor rather than buying the latest tech gadget that just hit the market. We make sacrifices in our diets when we abstain from meat, or make some other form of penance, on Fridays throughout the year, not just during Lent. We make sacrifices in our comfort level when we speak our sins aloud to a priest instead of saying “it’s between me and God.” We make sacrifices in our marriage when we practice Natural Family Planning and the abstinence that comes with it, rather than choosing contraception. Surely, our lives are filled with sacrifices.
But, just as we follow the commands of our trainers on our road to fitness, we follow our Church on the road to Heaven. And what greater reward for our sacrifices than the gift of God’s blessings showered down upon us and our arrival in heaven after we leave this world. Jesus and the Church have laid down a great road map for us. It is a marathon, not a sprint, and every day requires hard work and dedication. In the end, though, when you cross that finish line into the glory of Heaven, we will all know what that sacrifice and dedication was for! For no greater bliss exists than standing before our Lord in Heaven.