He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Living on the Mountain: Blood on the Rocks

The first time I remember seeing a chicken being killed was at my grandparent's farm in the mountains.  It was a pretty routine process and about as messy as you might expect.  At the end of that process, what was left behind was blood on the rocks out by a shed.

This of course is not the end of the story for the chicken.  We plucked and cleaned the chicken, which was later had for dinner.  Dinner at my grandparent's house always cost a great deal in labor and time and love, whether it was the delicious vegetables from the garden, the cookies baked from scratch, or the succulent chicken and dumplings.  All the wonderful food on the table had come by way of making sacrifices, in one form or another.  We were sustained only by way of sacrifice, whether that sacrifice was made by us in the form of time and labor or the sacrifice was made by a chicken, fish, hog, bull, or squirrel.

Looking back, I realize that I cannot possibly count the hours my grandparents have sacrificed to sustain us, and I will never even remotely be able to pay back my parents for all the time, blood, sweat, and tears required to sustain me.  And in a smaller way, I will never be able to thank everyone who shed blood to build the bridges, railroads, dams, and roads that support my existence.  I will never be able to thank all those who have cooked my food, purified my water, or cleaned my sewage.  I can never repay all the thousands of people who have served me, intentionally or not.

No matter what we do in life, our lives will involve a sacrifice which brings good to others.  Our lives are a living sacrifice, an outpouring of our energy and effort to benefit people who will never be able to thank us.  Like the chicken killed by my grandfather that day many years ago, we do not always get to choose whether or not our lives are a sacrifice which sustains others.  My grandfather understood that his life was a living sacrifice, and he not only accepted it, but gave generously of his life to all of us.

My grandfather so often looked to Christ as his example, and He is indeed the exemplar of a living sacrifice which sustains others.  Christ accepted His sorrowful Passion on the cross, becoming the ultimate sacrifice so that all might have the chance to live eternally in the light of divine love.  He became the Lamb out of love, his blood spilling out of his pierced side onto the rocks at Golgotha for our benefit.  Like Christ, my grandfather left his blood on the rocks.

In the end, our blood will be on the rocks as well.  We will have poured out our life's blood, hopefully to sustain life for many others.  Like Christ who lived life to the fullest, we who live our lives to the fullest will be emptied so that we can fill the lives of all with joy, emptied so that we can be filled with a greater life than we now possess. 

I hope that we can all follow my grandfather's example as he followed Christ's example, leaving our blood on the rocks not grudgingly, but rather as a perpetual gift of love which never ceases to sustain all those we love.  May we also empty ourselves for others so that we can be filled with a life greater than even this wondrous existence and share it with those we love!

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