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  • Sarah Raad

Luxury

“God had one Son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” (Saint Augustine of Hippo).

Thief on the Cross (Suzy Schultz)

The other day, our vacuum cleaner broke. Finally – after years of almost daily use – the motor finally gave up the ghost and died…


Now, my husband is very good at repairing machines – it is his job after all – and so, when he realised what had happened to that vacuum cleaner, he quickly had a look at parts for it. Finally – after finding that the motor cost about half the price of a new vacuum cleaner of comparable quality – he quickly decided to buy a new vacuum cleaner and throw away the old one.


We ordered the new machine online and waited a week for our delivery to arrive. When it finally arrived – late one Saturday afternoon – my husband quickly put it together and turned it on to “test” it... Please note that he was only “testing” it NOT vacuuming with it – my husband is a wonderful and beautiful man, but he is NOT a perfect one!


My youngest child – my daughter – kindly and excitedly decided to test “drive” the new vacuum cleaner herself to see how it compared with our old one. And as she finished vacuuming the house and packed it away in the cupboard where it belongs, she said to me, “Mum, I loved using that vacuum cleaner. It is such a luxury!”


That child made me laugh because it seemed somehow incongruent that one would find the job of vacuuming luxurious. After all, the word luxury is synonymous with opulence, and I have rarely – if ever – considered the job of vacuuming an opulent one…

But, nevertheless, my little girl got me thinking, because the incongruence in her statement reminded me of other incongruences… It reminded me of the incongruence of suffering and of sacrifice.

We – all of us – suffer. That is the plight of humankind since the fall of humanity through Original Sin and as Saint Augustine said, “God had one Son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.”


And the luxury is being given the opportunity to turn our suffering into sacrifice, and that luxury makes all the difference! And we can see it – even in the very LIFE of Christ…


You see, there were two thieves who were crucified on Calvary with Christ. One of them scorned Christ for not taking their suffering from them, and the other sacrificed his suffering to God, asking to be taken to His Kingdom with Him.


BOTH of those men were presumably CRIMINALS and SLAVES, because crucifixion was the Roman punishment for the LOWEST of SLAVES… And yet ONE of them was with Him that day in Paradise, which we KNOW because Christ said so, on the Cross…


“One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, ‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!’ But the other responded, and rebuking him, said, ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our crimes; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!’ And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:39-43).

And I think this example of the thieves on the crosses beside Our Blessed Lord as such a simple demonstration of the incongruent luxury of sacrifice. Because though BOTH suffered and BOTH died, it was the ONE who SACRIFICED his SUFFERING who was welcomed into Heaven that day…

You see, that CRIMINAL – the Good thief – was really the FIRST saint. He was the first to enter – that day – into Paradise… Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi understood the power of that sacrifice when she said, “I do not desire to die soon, because in Heaven there is no suffering. I desire to live a long time because I yearn to suffer much for the love of my Spouse.”


The Saints recognise the benefits of sacrifice… Saint Vincent de Paul said, “If we only knew the precious treasure hidden in infirmities, we would receive them with the same joy with which we receive the greatest benefits, and we would bear them without ever complaining or showing signs of weariness.”


And so, as I reflect on these words of all these Saints, I can understand the incongruent luxury afforded through suffering and sacrifice. For sacrifice is a luxury – much like a brand new vacuum cleaner… It is beautiful tool to get a painful job done – to clean things up in a spiritual way, so to speak – but because it is new and in good working order, it allows the work to be done most effectively, according to the desire of my Beloved.


So, now, when I face the tiny sufferings of my own little life, I pray for the grace to see them for the luxuries that they are and turn them into sacrifices, which are the tools finely tuned by my Beloved to perfectly suit my needs…


And if my Beloved SUFFERED in SACRIFICE for LOVE of me, who am I to reject the sacrifices so lovingly bestowed upon me for the merit of my eternal life?


For the difference between suffering and sacrifice is merely having a little perspective about what a marvellous luxury suffering really is…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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