The Sacrifice of Love – Third Sunday of Advent
For the Advent posts this year, I am focusing on the themes presented by Fathers John Pungente, SJ and Monty Williams, SJ, in their new book Advent Goes to the Movies – Finding God through film (2021, from Novalis). They offer themes for each of the four weeks of Advent and use four films (including family-friendly options) to develop each theme. The authors use very relatable films and offer a series of reflection questions. The reflection questions aim to show how the film is an entry point into Advent themes.
For the Third Sunday, they deal with sacrifices and risks that usually accompany acts of love. Love is easier in good times than in bad times. Ask any married couple. Ask any vowed religious. Actually, ask anyone! True love demands sacrifices, sometimes on a daily basis.
My personal experience is that yes is easier when things are going well. I do is not difficult when I am young and vibrant and everything is going in my favour. The authors remind us that it is in the hard times when we truly prove our love. That is often a time of sacrifice – it could concern finances or health or the struggles of raising a challenging child. For those of us with religious vows, the sacrifice comes when we discover the true cost of living in community.
The authors remind us that love is not merely sentimental. To truly love someone is to enter into the challenges that appear each day. God showed love for us by entering into the world as one like us. The mystery of the Incarnation – of God becoming human – reminds us that even God takes risks. God becomes one of us. God becomes weak and vulnerable, dependent on two simple human beings for the necessities of life. God’s love for us is unbounded.
Mary and Joseph did not have an easy time. They certainly spent time with their son as refugees. They knew what many families around the globe know very well. Their sacrifices allowed Jesus to grow with grace and maturity and wisdom.
Pungente and Williams point out that the beautiful Season of Advent is recognizing, and accepting, that gift which opens us to a new life. Advent is time for us to find ways to reach out in love to others, especially those who most need our love. Is there someone in my circle who most needs love and acceptance right now? Have I heard about a stranger or group of people who need love? How can I offer that gift?
The Gospel provided by the Church for this Sunday of Advent includes a simple reminder about sacrifice. Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise. Our sacrifices usually exceed clothing and food. They involve a true cost in our lives.
How have you had to make sacrifices for those you love? Your spouse? Your children or grandchildren? Your religious community? How have others had to make sacrifices for you?
We take time today to ponder the sacrifice of Jesus. The newborn child we welcome in two weeks. St Ignatius these words in his contemplation on the nativity, inviting us to ponder Mary and Joseph and their journey: journeying and toiling, in order that the Lord may be born in greatest poverty; and that after so many hardships of hunger, thirst, heat, cold, injuries, and insults, he may die on the cross!