Homily on the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt (St. Mark 10:32-45)
What are you willing to sacrifice for a better life? To improve the lives of those around you?
The power of deferred gratification. Save now – for something big later.
We use this for all kinds of things: retirement accounts, education, residencies
Think back: what sacrifices did you make in the past in order to obtain something you really wanted? Was it worth it?
Some even look at the Christian life as a cosmic deferred gratification scheme: give up a bit of time and money now at the local parish and get into that awesome retirement community in the sky
But what if that wasn't what Christianity was about at all? What if it was less about sacrificing now for something I want later, and more about sacrifice as a means to become a better person now? What if living a life of sacrifice brought you a better life NOT because it allowed you to save up to get more and better stuff, but because it transformed you into a new person. Less broken, less needy, more joyful, more content, and more powerful?
This is exactly what psychological studies have found. The marshmallow test.
A strong sacrifice muscle is not just associated with the ability to getter stuff: researchers found that people with a strong one have better life outcomes, as measured by various “life measures”.
What are we willing to sacrifice to become better people, to become what our tradition calls “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17), a “new self” (Ephesians 4:24). That will, more importantly, allow us to bring comfort, healing, and joy to all those around us whose lives are bing ruined by a world that is often cruel, brutal, and merciless in its oppression?
As people who have accepted that Christ is the Son of God, what are we willing to give up that will charge that acceptance with the kind of supernatural power that will allow us to join St. Paul in saying that it is “no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me?”
It's sacrifice. That's why silly things like giving up food and more difficult things like offering a substantial portion of our income to the church and other charities and of spending a substantial amount of time in prayer, worship, and community service are all built into what early Christians called “The Way”, but that we call “Orthodox Christianity”.
Any thing worth having requires hard work. All good things require sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ made the salvation of mankind – a very good thing – possible. We are meant to imitate him in that so that, as St. Paul said, we might “save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
This is what Christ meant when He said in today's Gospel; “whoever will be great will serve... and the one that desires to be first will become a slave.”
That is the way of Christ and it is The Way of the Christian. It will give us a better life and improves the lives of those around us.
May the Lord strengthen as we dedicate ourselves to sacrifice our time, our tithes, and everything we hold dear out of our love of God and desire to serve – and save - our neighbor.