Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday: Sacrificial Love

Today we remember how Jesus showed us his love, God’s love, by laying down his life for us, by suffering for us on the cross. Whenever I sit (or kneel – or stand) in front of a crucifix, I feel gratitude for this gift of love, and I am also aware of an invitation to lay down my life with sacrificial love, showing my solidarity with Jesus by loving even my enemies. But for us it’s usually not some supreme act of sacrifice to which we are called, but many small acts of sacrifice and love. As a new mother I gave up my sleep to attend to the needs of my child. I stop what I am doing to listen to the needs of a despairing friend.  I pray for my enemies. I wonder, however, how often I have failed to do these things for selfish reasons, and I ask for forgiveness because I know that I have missed the mark too many times.

 At the Foot of the Cross
Here I am at the foot of the cross,
a cross I imagine rough and heavy
with suffering; dark
and streaked with pain.
It was an instrument of torture
and a gift of love.
But I am here, open-eyed;
I am here, all of me;
here with all my wounds and blessings,
with all my failures and triumphs,
with all my faults and virtues,
my memories of helpless rage
and my memories of love.
Here I am at the foot of the cross,
looking into the face of outrageous,  foolish love.
Here, today, all of me,
I say Yes,
I will let myself be loved
with this irresistible,
terrible, magnificent love;
even though I know it means
I must learn to love this way.
Here, today,
at the foot of the cross,
nothing is impossible.

Coincidentally, this year Good Friday falls on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.  Dr. King protested nonviolently against laws in the southern United States which segregated the races and which made it impossible for African-Americans to vote.  Dr. King also knew the power of sacrificial love. I would like to include here an excerpt from one of his sermons in which he speaks of this power of sacrificial love:

“To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force.  Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.  Throw us in jail and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you.  But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’”

Where have I seen the power of sacrificial love in my life?  Where am I being invited to love like this?

Poem and reflection by Sharon Sullivan

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