The Beauty of Offering and Sacrifice

 

What does it mean to give ‘our all’ to God? And why would we want to do that? There are basically two approaches to answering these questions. Do we seek to have our present reasoning justified? Or, do we seek to have our hearts changed?

Consider the life of the early Christian saint, Anthony of Egypt. His parents had died, leaving him considerable wealth and the care of his sister. As he was walking to church one day, he was reflecting on the meaning of Jesus’ words, “Sell all that you have, and give to the poor, … and come, follow me.” Arriving at church, he heard the preacher speak about the same Bible passage. Anthony took this Gospel to heart, believing it applied directly to him. As a result, he gave away his land to the poor tenants who lived on it, and sold the rest of his possessions. Then, after arranging for his sister’s care, Anthony went into the desert to live and pray in extreme simplicity.

Years later, Anthony’s holy example of a life centered on God attracted followers who gathered around him in desert caves. Among those who imitated him by selling their belongings, Anthony noticed something odd. All of them had given up what they owned, and literally had nothing. But many of them couldn’t stop thinking about what they had given away. They had parted with their material possessions; yet, they had not let go of them spiritually!

Anthony’s story provides a concrete vindication of Jesus’ teaching concerning the things we consider to be most important and valuable. For we soon find ourselves justifying our attachment to them. In other words, ‘where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.” Or, from an Appreciative Inquiry point of view, wherever our attention is focused, there we will direct our energy. So, let’s ask this: what is most important to us? And what is most important for us?

Here, I invite you to reflect on Heinrich Hoffman’s painting, shown above. This is one of the most-often reproduced images of Jesus’ face. It beautifully illustrates Mark’s comment about how, when the rich young man sought to justify himself, “Jesus loved him.” And yet, notice how that young man looks away from Jesus’ gaze.

When Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, we have left everything to follow you,” he was not speaking lightly, but literally. He and his brother Andrew, as well as James and John, had left their fathers, their family employment and their sources of income. Their example provides a huge challenge for every subsequent follower of the Nazarene Rabbi.

 

This post is based on my homily for Sunday, October 14, 2018, which can be accessed by clicking here. The image above is Heinrich Hoffman’s painting, Christ and the Rich Young Ruler. Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here.

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