Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sacrifices, Priorities and What the New Year Offers

Today is the first Sunday of the new Liturgical (Church) year. As we noted last week, the Church year begins on September first. With September the first two of a series of Holy Feasts begins to unfold. The first of these is the Nativity of the Theotokos (The “Birthgiver of God”) the Virgin Mary. The spiritual significance of this feast becomes apparent as the year progresses and we come to realize the great role the Virgin makes in our salvation. Next week we will celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the anniversary of St Helena, the mother of St Constantine, finding the True Cross in the fourth century.

Together, these Feasts (two of the Twelve Great Feasts that along with Pascha are our holiest annual celebrations) remind us that our Faith is not tied to fables of a never-never-land. The Truths of Christianity are solidly grounded in the rock surface of real history. The Holy Trinity does not inhabit a make believe era cut off from reality, He reveals Himself in the sweat and blood of human life.

This should immediately alert us to the fact that Christ can be active in our lives today. I say can be because we actually have a say so in our own salvation. Because God is Love, it is against His Nature (so to speak) that He would impose Himself on us. To be real, love must be freely given and freely received. Therefore, God offers us His saving Love, but it is up to us whether we will accept it or not. And just as we must prioritize our lives for any earthly thing we truly want, we must also make choices and decisions about how to live if we are to accept God’s love and the salvation that comes with it.

We all know that certain earthly goals require us to spend time, money and sweat if we are to achieve them. “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and it took effort and determination to put the first stone on top of another to get things started. Growing in the image and likeness of God requires no less of us. Keeping the fasts and taking the time for Holy Day celebrations; giving to the Church of our time, our talents and earthly resources are but minor sacrifices in comparison to the spiritual rewards we can achieve in Christ, both here now and tomorrow.

Our Lord sacrificed Himself on the Cross for us, and is it not a little thing for us to make the small sacrifices of effort, prayerful focus, offering of our time, or giving a few dollars for Him? And the best part? The abundant life our Lord wishes to give us now in this world is but a foretaste of the fullness of eternal life He is offering on the Day of Resurrection in exchange for our commitment to Him today!

Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through Faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on Faith; that I may know Him and the power of his Resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3.8-14)
Thanks be to God!

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