“Right reason makes one abstain as one ought, i.e. with gladness of heart, and for the due end, i.e. for God’s glory and not one’s own.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 116. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.
Good Friday has come fast upon us. Here we are, in the midst of that holy day when Our Lord was scourged, crowned, and took the burden of the cross upon Himself for our sake. But even amidst the sorrow and repentance that naturally comes with Good Friday, we should remember that our sorrow and penance should be accompanied by ‘gladness of heart’. But what is this gladness of heart? Where can we find it on such a day of sorrow?
This gladness of heart comes from offering our penances and sorrow as we ought, not with a spirit of discontentment or bitterness, but willingly and gladly, as Our Lord did when He received the Cross and started His agonizing path to Calvary. Do you think God is pleased with our grudging sacrifices? They are not sacrifices at all, then, and profit us nothing, because they are not made with charity. Remember what the Apostle Paul says about the importance of charity: “And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). We ought to make our sacrifices, then with a glad heart, for love of God, not offering our penances grudgingly but gladly and willingly, that He might see them and be pleased.
That is another point: God alone should see the sacrifices we make. This ties into sacrificing “for the due end…God’s glory and not one’s own.” We should make our sacrifices of love, keeping them hidden and away from the eyes of men as much as possible, not seeking to show other men how much we love God, but seeking to show God how much we love Him. He is the only One Who needs to know, if you think about it, and if we love God sincerely, other men will know by our actions and our words, indeed, our very lives. If we are doing penances so that other men can see us and commend us, we already have our reward, says Our Lord. Their reward is the praise of men…but their punishment shall be that their ‘sacrifices’ will be rejected by God because they were not given to Him, but to men. We should not seek to glorify ourselves by our penances and prayers, but rather pray in secret, so that our Father can see us and reward us, and not men, whose praise is fleeting and often deceitful.
If we seek to offer our sacrifices to God alone, with a glad heart, we will be rewarded by God, for He is never outdone in generosity. Let us seek to praise Him, making reparation for our past sins by our penances, and offer it all with joy and willingness for love of Him, seeking only His approval. Then our sacrifices will become a sweet aroma to God, and will be sweet to us also, because we sacrifice a lesser good for a greater–that of God’s friendship and grace. Let us think on this throughout this holy day, this Good Friday, and amidst the sorrow and tears shed in repentance and remembrance, let us offer ourselves and sacrifice generously and willingly for God, to honor His Son on the day when He died in agony for our sins upon the Holy Cross.
+We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee,
Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.+