Love and Sacrifice can lead others to sacrifice

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Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War. Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags. Vandals or soldiers or both, looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton. Many others suffered similar fates. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. They sacrificed for love of freedom.
Have you ever wondered how many men and women have sacrificed life or limb for love of that same freedom? From those who have served our country to the rescuers who rushed into the World Trade Center on 9/11; those who have sacrificed for others are too numerous to count.

Have you ever wondered what it was that Jesus saw in sinful man that made him freely sacrifice everything and pay such a painful price to set us free from sin and death? After all, it was our sins that brought him to the Cross. Our celebration of Holy Week begins with the “Hosanna!” of Palm Sunday and culminates in the “Crucify Him!” of Good Friday, and if we carefully follow the events of Christ’s passion, we will see the change that love and sacrifice can bring. Love and sacrifice can bring change. In (Mark 15:39) we hear the centurion glorify God and say “Surely this man was the Son of God!” In (Luke 23:42) we hear a criminal say “Lord remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Because of Jesus’ sacrifice a soldier and a criminal believed something they would have accepted in no other way. When you are willing to die – willing to sacrifice everything – for what you say you believe, that is when others stop and take notice.

Love and Sacrifice can produce forgiveness. “Father, forgive them . . .” (Luke 23:34) Someone once said that “Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me.” Of all the things that Jesus said on the cross on the day of His sacrifice, these words, from a human perspective, are the hardest for us to grasp. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing!” Mother Teresa tells the story of an old woman that she found lying in a garbage dump. The woman was covered in sores and wounds from being bitten by vermin and insects and was very near death. All the woman could say over and over is “My son did this to me, my son did this to me!” Mother took her back to her home to die in Calcutta and cleansed her wounds. She took such loving care of this poor woman and repeatedly tried to help the woman to forgive her son. She placed her on a mat with clean sheets and held her hand. Finally the woman looked up at Mother and with peace in her eyes said, “I forgive my son,” and with that she died.

Love and Sacrifice can lead others to sacrifice. After Jesus had breathed his last, and the sacrifice was complete, John records that Joseph from the city of Arimathea came to Pilate and asked him for Jesus’ body. Joseph was probably a man of some wealth and influence, to have that kind of access to Pilate and to have a tomb that had been hewn out of rock. To identify himself with Jesus when popular opinion had swung against Him was a dangerous thing. But Joseph was willing to face the sacrifice of everything, including his own burial place, because of the sacrifice of Jesus for him; no cost was too high for him to pay having now witnessed the high cost that his Savior paid in order to secure his salvation. During this final week of Lent let us spend some quiet time with Jesus reflecting on the worth of every single soul and the change that can be wrought, if we but sacrifice, even in small ways, for the sake of others.

Sylvia Bates