A Sacrifice of the Will

A Sacrifice of the Will

I purchased it several years ago, but this Lent I decided to start reading Hinds’ Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard. While I don’t want to give too much away for those who may be interested in reading it, I do want to focus on one point that has struck me repeatedly throughout the book.

Several times, Much-Afraid, the character followed in the story, is called to sacrifice her will for the Shepherd’s will. This story is an allegory of the Christian life, but the repeated need to make altars upon which to lay one’s own will, is rather striking. Each time, she assembles an altar from whatever materials lie close at hand and then she places her own will on the altar. A fire alights from somewhere and consumes the sacrifice, making a burnt offering of her very will.

There Much-Afraid built her first altar on the mountains, a little pile of broken rocks, and then, with the Shepherd standing close beside her, she laid down on the altar her trembling, rebelling will. A little spurt of flame came from somewhere, and in an instant nothing but a heap of ashes was laying on the altar.

Hinds’ Feet on High Places, pp. 71-72

In the midst of reading this book, the coronavirus has swept the nation and world. It felt very real when my bishop suspended all Masses. Suddenly, I was in a similar position to the people I ministered in Honduras, who go without Mass for undetermined periods of time. It was something I never considered happening here. During the season of Lent, I suddenly felt like a tremendous sacrifice was being asked of me. Yet the end probably won’t come at Easter, with the beautiful Triduum marking the end of the wandering in the desert. Who knows how long we will be left to wander in this sacramental desert.

The Lord asked us to place our wills upon the altar and to accept them being made into a burnt offering, a living sacrifice for the Lord. Arguments about what ought to be done aside, I am confident the Lord can use this time to shape us, to pull us out of the normal and help us see the miraculous in what we mistook for ordinary.

Continue reading “A Sacrifice of the Will”

Holiness in the Mundane

Their faces are registering complete shock.

Personally, I’m a little taken aback that what I said is so surprising to them.

“How can homework make us holy?”
“Do you want to do homework?”
“Yes….er, no,” my student responds, wavering, it seems, between what he feels he should say and what is actually the truth.  “No, I don’t.”
“So doing your homework would mean you are going against your own will and desire to do what you should do.”
“So we are supposed to stab ourselves in the arm?!”
“Doing your homework is a bit different than stabbing yourself in the arm.  I’m not saying you need to intentionally inflict pain upon yourself so that you suffer.  Simply accept the suffering that comes your way and offer it to God.  Choosing to do your homework when you don’t want to means saying no to your own will and yes to God’s will.  Right now you are to be a student.  God isn’t requiring that everyone gets a 4.0 GPA, but He does want you to do the very best that you can.”

How often we fail to see the ordinary, inconvenient, monotonous tasks of the day as paths to sanctity!  We want something extraordinary.  Lord, give us some big task, some grandiose mission and we will fulfill it for You!  Instead, we are given long lines at the grocery store, disobedient children, laundry, and snow shoveling.  They don’t seem quick paths to holiness, but the Lord only entrusts big missions to those who are faithful in small matters.

If the cross my students carry is homework, my cross is found in grading their homework and tests.  It is easy to push it aside, to think I have far better things to do.  Yet, in a way that I don’t fully understand, my holiness can be brought about in grading the 63rd paper about the Shroud of Turin or test over the arguments for God’s existence.  Somewhere in the monotony of that work, I can utter with my actions, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

So homework, study guide writing, end of the year planning, and room cleaning here I come.  And somewhere in the midst, may sanctity be found.