Living Jesus’ Self-Sacrificing Spirit and Love
Readings: (1st: Wis 9, 13-18; Ps: 89, 3-6. 12-14; 2nd: Phlm 9, 10. 12-17; Gos: Lk 14, 25-33)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Phone: +23408063767512, +23408024942843
Living Jesus’s Self-Sacrificing Spirit and Love, is what the Church turns our focus to, on this 23rd Sunday of Her Ordinary Time. The spirit of sacrifice helps one do a thing that sometimes beats the imagination of those around. Only the wisdom of God can help one unravel the power behind the spirit of self-sacrifice. It is this spirit that made Jesus give up all things including his life for our sake. So He reminds us this Sunday that it is through this same spirit of self-sacrifice that we can become truly his disciples. As difficult as this may seem, however, it is possible to live it through the unfathomable wisdom of our Creator who willingly gave up everything, including his Son due to his love for humanity.
Some months ago, I attended the burial Mass of “Chief Ama-Echina.” After the Mass, an elderly man named “Iche Ome-ogo” was introduced to the congregation in a special way as a hero, with a very strong affinity to the deceased Chief Amaechina. Afterwards, he got a resounding standing ovation. What did he do to merit this? Simple! He is an epitome of Jesus’ self-sacrificing spirit and love. In fact, he reminded me of two things; the title of Fr. Bede Ukwuije, C.S.Sp’s book: “The Memory of Self Donation” and, the heroic act of St. Maximilian Kolbe on July 31, 1941 in Auschwitz concentration camp. The story about Ichie Ome-ogo is that during the Nigerian-Biafran civil war, the deceased Chief Ama-echina, the only son of his parents was chosen from his clan for conscription into the Biafran Army since he was young and fits the job most. This became a source of grief for him, his family and the entire clan. Seeing the plight of his kinsman, Ichie Ome-ogo offered himself as a replacement for Chief Ama-echina so that he could get married, raise children and sustain his family lineage. Ichie Ome-ogo went to war, fought and returned alive. On his return he got married, and was equally blessed with children. The most touching aspect of the whole story is that, the same Ichie Ome-ogo who went to war was still alive to witness the death and burial of his kinsman, Chief Ama-echina. As a true disciple, Ichie Ome-ogo gave up and “hated” his own life, and so got it back in abundance for he still lives on till date.
This Sunday’s first reading therefore draws our attention to the depth of the wisdom of God who alone knowing his intention for forlorn humanity sacrificed his son for its restoration. No human being can divine or fully appreciate the magnitude of the will of God, and his sacrifice for humanity. He alone can, safe those he reveals his intention to through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we reflect on the intention of God for sacrificing his only son for our sake this Sunday, we must equally pray that He imbues us with his Holy Spirit from above. In the second reading, Paul in the spirit of Sacrifice was prepared to send back to Philemon, the dear friend of his captivity, a part of his own self, Onesimus. Although Paul had every right to retain Onesimus, he allowed him to return to his master Philemon who equally needed him. Paul here teaches us that we can equally sacrifice our own comfort in order to restore that of others around us, and for the peace of our world. Likewise, Philemon also, in the spirit of sacrifice was asked by Paul to be ready to let go of his misgivings and his ownership of Onesimus as a slave, and now treat him as a brother. What do we learn from all these? There is nothing we cannot let go for the sake of the comfort and peace of others. There is nothing, no matter how dear to us that is indispensible, and cannot be sacrificed for the sake of God and humanity.
In the gospel therefore, Jesus intensified this call for us to imbibe his self-sacrificing spirit if we must become truly his disciple: “If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife…yes, and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.” What does the Master mean by “hating” here? He simply teaches us to learn to sacrifice, not that we are to literally hate people or members of our family in order to be his disciples. After all, they form part of those we are to witness to, and so must be loved too. He is not in any way preaching hatred, but rather detachment in the spirit of sacrifice. He wishes us to be willing to sacrifice our own comfort when duty calls as Ichie Ome-ogo did for his kinsman and clan, as Maximilian Kolbe did for his fellow prisoner, as the Apostle Paul did for Philemon, and as Jesu Christ did for all of us. To be Christ’s disciple then, means having the spirit of sacrifice. That is, being ready to give up anything. Without the sacrificial spirit, one remains attached to ones will. Without it, we cannot see the needs of others. Without it, we cannot understand the mind of God, and without it, the entire world remains static and non-adventurous.
Sacrifice then help us to give up everything and lose nothing at the end. It disposes us to become better Disciples of Christ. Therefore, what could qualify as suicide in the wisdom of men actually becomes heroic to the man willing and able to sacrifice in the spirit of Jesus Christ. In the spirit of sacrifice, the wisdom of God comes fully alive. It is only when we live out Jesus’ Self-Sacrificial Spirit and Love that we can conveniently and courageously proclaim: “O Lord you have been my refuge from one generation to the next”.
Peace be with you all!