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Friday, June 20, 2008

the pricelessness of sacrifice

I heard people comment on the blessedness of being rich. They say if one is rich, one has better opportunities. One can buy food, clothes, appliances; one can live in a nice house; one can travel extensively and be sent to exclusive schools. Indeed, to be rich is to be empowered, but for me, that is just to a certain degree. Not all can be bought by money, and not because one is rich one is already happy. Nonetheless, I have not heard of extreme cases in which one wealthy person is so willing to give up his or her possessions in order to live simply. That one may be called nuts, given the comfort that money can offer. I have the opposite thing in mind, however: I think that it’s a kind of a heroic act to surrender one’s riches to lead a simple life, the way Jesus did when He was sent on earth to live among us. After all, sacrifice is indeed difficult but ultimately rewarding for a true believer of Christ.
I have always thought it socially just if there were no poor people or, at least, if certain agencies are actually succeeding in upgrading the poor’s socio-economic status. It is not a sin to be rich especially for those who earned their money honestly; what is sinful is if one lives comfortably through one’s wealth but is blind to his poor neighbor’s life of severely limited means. That’s against the second greatest commandment. It pains me to enjoy a few luxuries while around me, people are going hungry or shelter-less or sick and uncared for. That is why I resolved that in some way, I will help my less privileged brethren in order to uplift them from their plight. Then, it struck me, how do I do it? It is not enough to take pity on these people; I understand that something must be done. That something, however, has to be done practically in order to see action emerge from a vision. Here is where the problem lies: how do I commit myself to my underprivileged brothers and sisters? This crisis reminds me of the early Jew converts who had to struggle changing from one religion to another. They all thought Christianity is no different from Judaism, until they realized these are two different beliefs altogether. Two thousand years later and the problem echoes: do I choose to believe or to ignore my spiritual responsibility? Becoming a Christian means following the footsteps of Christ as He walked His cross towards the end of His sacrificial act. Believing in Him means that my sacrifice will not be for nothing. That is the truth: Jesus will not leave me hanging sensitively without His help in my own leap of faith. I am giving up everything for with God as my Shepherd, I shall not want. Nobody can claim that it is going to be easy; after all, the comfort of my little luxuries distracts me from my real, greater need: to wait until the real comfort of God’s gift of everlasting life is given, right after my belief and acceptance and practice as a true Christian. Committing myself in the Christian spirituality means never having to doubt that God’s revelation of salvation for the believer is true. Committing myself is trying to imitate Christ in His self-sacrifice. It is hard, yes, but if the early Christians were able to endure the persecution, the difficulty of surrendering themselves to become martyrs, I can probably too. It is not easy, I know, but being able to reach out to my poorer brethren, by being able to share what little I have to them, these should cause my joy. Embracing the life the Christ led on earth is also embracing His very suffering that is essential for my identification with Christ’s sacrifice.
Modern life has offered me many choices to enjoy living, but on a deeper level, they are too material to match the greater idea of Christian salvation. These choices do not offer me real security; they can only satisfy my hunger, make me do less work, give me convenience. After their initial security, I’m hungry again, more difficult work comes up, and hardships are back again and often in a more complicated form. So how do I truly accept them as choices? They are, in fact, temptations for me to turn my back from Christ. It is good that I get to know Christ, whose security is far better than any convenient temptation of the modern times. Hence, if I happen to become rich or, at least, to live more comfortably than most people, I should not allow myself to drift away from the better comfort offered by God. I should find it easier to give up my material convenience if being Christ-like merits it; as I see it, this means not being ignorant to the needs of others. It means playing fair with workers who must be rewarded justly for the hard labor they perform. It means not exploiting them for my own benefits of personal enrichment. It means acting on my freedom to commit myself to their cause, because as a more privileged individual, I can be their voice in getting the concerned authorities to listen and improve the welfare of these people. I understand that as I relate to these brethren in Christ, I find my well-sought redemption by being one with them. I remember God saying that I and my Christian siblings should love one another as He has loved us, and my interpersonal relationship with my poorer siblings is the manifestation of this love. Difficult as these are, I will not grow afraid for God supports me as His disciple, and I believe that He will not abandon me when I have readily yielded myself to Him. The hardships I should see as challenges for me to continue my trust in God because if He is encouraging every Christian to follow His way, it means a Christian can do it with relative ease, especially with God assisting. Once I accept these challenges, I have to have faithfulness in this commitment. I must bear in mind that I am doing my version of sacrifice as an end in itself and not as a means to glorify myself. I will not permit myself to be tempted to neglect my undertaking because I want others to put their trust and faith in me, and to believe that I can deliver my Christian duty. In the end, I know that no amount of hard work will merit my salvation, but I see sacrificing myself to others as a necessary way of showing my acceptance and belief and trust in God, for in and through my brothers and sisters do I see and love Christ. I choose to love Christ and my brethren, and in the true name of love I am willing to submit absolutely to the life of a practicing Christian.

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