The Pearl of Great Price

caravaggio-call-st-matthew1 

Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”

Matthew 19:27
 

You’ve got to love Peter’s boldness here, but at the same time it’s difficult to resent his question. Some of us have given up huge things for Christ–“houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands” (Mt 19:29). I think of a Missionary of Charity (Mother Teresa’s sisters) I met in Harlem a few years ago who told me on her latest visit to her family, they had finally stopped acting as though she had died and were speaking to her again. For some of us, perhaps the sacrifices have been slightly less drastic: we no longer go out with the same groups of friends, or our co-workers tease us sometimes, or we wake up a little earlier to pray. There are certainly times when we repeat Peter’s question, even subconsciously, “What will there be for us?”

 
Let’s pose the question a little differently: “Who will there be for us?” or maybe, “For whom did we give up these things? Who are you, Lord Jesus, that I gave up these things for you?” Sacrifice has significance when it is borne from love, and so to understand sacrifice, one must understand for whom one is sacrificing. It’s like a woman in labor–the pain makes more sense when she finally sees the face of her child. Similarly, when we seek the face of Christ in prayer, adore Him in the Eucharist, imagine His life in the rosary, the sacrifices we make for Him suddenly make sense, perhaps seem inadequate, and hopefully inspire even deeper love, a love that increases our desire. For how, Jesus, can I love you if you do not help me, if you do not make me want to love you? And so love feeds on more love, the desire to love God grows as loving him grows, and our love leads us to a deeper wanting. And so we begin to lose track, as this process continues, of what exactly we have given up, of how difficult the sacrifices were, as we throw ourselves headlong into this mysterious life of love, where Christ is the sweet balm of our pains–He, who is the reason, the one who led us to give up everything, is in turn, strangely, wonderfully, our reward, for He is everything, “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).
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