The Joy and Love of Sacrifice
April 2012 — Vol. 1, Issue 6
Fr. Drew Gawrych, C.S.C.
“To capture love in a permanent form one must pass through a Calvary.”
Of the many spiritual insights and truths we can draw from our celebration of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection this Holy Week, those words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen certainly capture one of the most essential – namely, that love, true love is only born in our lives and in our world through sacrifice. “Love that is not nourished on sacrifice,” Archbishop Sheen continues, “becomes trite, banal, and commonplace … because it has sounded no new depths.”
This Holy Week lesson on the necessity of sacrifice for true love is a critically important reminder for anyone discerning his vocation.
In recent years, vocation promotion in the Church has tended to emphasize the joy that comes through finding and living our calling from God. Perhaps this emphasis on the joy of vocation serves as a response to the quest for self-fulfillment that seems to dominate our present-day culture. There is nothing wrong with self-fulfillment. And certainly, when we find our calling from God, we will also find joy. After all, Jesus said that he came so that “my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
And yet, we cannot forget that true self-fulfillment only comes through self-emptying … through self-sacrifice. That is why immediately after telling them that he came so that their joy could be complete, Jesus says to the disciples, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (15:13). Jesus is simply echoing at the Last Supper what he had told them previously: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).
The reason that I can truthfully testify that I have never enjoyed so much love in my life as I have since I took final vows and was ordained a priest is precisely because I have never had to sacrifice more for others and for God.
My life has never been more demanding and more exhausting, and yet, at the same time, more joyful and more fulfilling. And the two have always come together: My deepest joys and deepest loves as a religious and priest have come through my greatest sacrifices.
The young married couples and parents who I know say the same thing to me about their vocations. It is in emptying themselves – for their spouses and for their children – that they have found the greatest joy and the greatest love of their lives.
And so when discerning our vocation, we cannot overlook the reality of sacrifice. It is real. It is a part of every vocation. And yet the sacrifices our vocations will demand from us are not something to be feared, but rather something to be embraced – even something to be pursued – for they are what will bring life, love and joy not just to us, but to others as well. Simply put, they are one of the blessings of any vocation.
Through our vocations then, may we let God draw us out into the deep where, through the sacrifices we are called to make, we can sound new depths in our love for Him and for others. For as we celebrate this Holy Week, that is just what Jesus did for us.
Prayer from the Tradition
Enter your email address to receive our monthly discernment e-newsletter: