Listen during Holy Week:
Worthy Is the Lamb, sung by Hillsong feat. Miriam Webster
Also: Agnus Dei, Michael W. Smith, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYnWp2ueQDI
"Lamb of God" from the Messiah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mNR8FJOhZ4
Sacrifice is a part of love. This is because love teaches us to put our focus outside ourselves. We care for our partners, our families, friends, our community, our nation and world -- all of creation, including animals and the beauty of the earth. Our love finds a home in all these places. As we learn to interact well with others, we learn to sacrifice -- to give of our time, our energy, our resources on behalf of others -- with no thought of return. This is mature love.
There is another element of sacrifice that is hard for us to practice. That is forgiveness. To let go of past resentments or hurts, and move beyond retribution. To practice true justice, which is love in action in community . Human societies have long sought to find ways to enact justice when one side was wronged. We all have heard "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Ex. 21:24). To some this sounds harsh, but this ancient law given to the people of Israel was actually intended to limit retribution and keep it fair. By the same token as we mature in love we become aware that "all have sinned and fallen short" (Romans 3:23). Or as Jesus pointed out when the crowd clamored to stone an adulterous woman, "Let the one without sin be the first to cast a stone at her" (cf. John 8:7).
This love, that sacrifices for others, forgives, takes the burden of retribution for sin and wrongdoing, is merciful; we see it enacted fully by Jesus this week. Jesus models for us in the most exalted -- yet most humbling of ways of how Love acts. From washing his disciples' feet, to enduring the brutality of five trials along with the beatings, mocking and flogging, to crucifixion. Although in extreme pain, Jesus' last words from the cross offer forgiveness ("then said Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:34), compassion to a common criminal, crucified alongside him (‘I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:43); to caring for the well being of his mother in putting her in the care of his disciple ( ‘Woman, behold thy son!’” (John 19:26); to joining with all of humanity in those places where we feel separate, broken, alone, full of despair (“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is, being interpreted, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34).
This is Love. A love that sacrifices for us and endures the consequence of sin for us. By our witness to Jesus, and loving as Jesus laid out through his actions and teachings, we can bring restoration and sanity to our lives.
Questions for Holy Week:
Where can we improve in how we love?
Who do we need to forgive?
What resentments do we need to surrender?
For what do we need to ask forgiveness?
Pray: "Jesus, remove in me all the stones that block my ability to love, forgive and to let go of all resentments."