Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Saints and Sacrifice

It's no secret that I am not that great at keeping up with my blog. I had hoped that by making a commitment to at least post my church's "Following the Message" question once a week I would get into a habit. But so far, no dice!! Are we surprised? No, not really.

So, I really, really wanted to post last week's question but just didn't have the time. But I don't want to let it go, so this post will be slightly different from my past "Following the Message" posts. I will attempt to discuss both questions from All Saint's Day and the Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Two Sundays ago we had All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation that fell on a Sunday this year. The readings from that Sunday are here on the USCCB page. These are great readings for All Saints Day. A passage from Revelation 7 that describes the saints in heaven praising God along with the angels; a Psalm with the response "Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face"; a very relevant passage from the first letter of John; and for the Gospel reading we get the Beatitudes from Matthew.

Question: How does the example of the saints help me to live the Christian life?

Alternate Question for Kids: Which saint inspires me the most?

Usually I would post the paragraph in the bulletin that expounds on Catholic teaching regarding the question, but given that I'm trying to cover two questions I'm going to skip it this time. However, if you're curious about the Catholic teaching on saints and what we believe about saints you can do a web search for the Catechism of the Catholic Church and look for paragraph numbers 828 and 2683. I've had good success with a search string like: Catechism Catholic Church 828.

We are all called to holiness. We are also all called to be saints. The Church canonizes some people as official saints to be examples for us on how to live a Christian life. For me I am impressed with any saint I read about. Anytime I read even the smallest thing about a saint I feel that I am reading the life of someone who I should be trying to be more like, because they lived their life as Jesus asks all of us to. I am impressed with their prayer life, with how they lived their lives in service to others, how they taught others, and, for some of them, the amazing writings they left behind. I find it hard to read about any saint and not see an example of how to live a Christian life.

At different times in my life I have had special relationships with different saints. First for me was the Blessed Mother, Mary. I think she has guided me in a variety of ways before I even knew it. And I chose Mary as my confirmation name. St. Clare of Assisi was next and was the first saint I think I really started reading about. I saw her body when I went to Assisi and got to see part of the Church where her convent is. I think of her whenever I need to de-clutter my house (or my life). I think she guides me to make things simpler around me at times when I really need it. Last year I learned about St. Philomena and St. Gerard, I asked them pray for healing for me and another pregnancy. I got pregnant shortly after finishing the nine day St. Philomena Novena. Other saints have become of interest to me and I am always impressed with their lives. I like reading about the saints, they give us something to work toward.

This past Sunday was the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings all have to do with trust and sacrifice, two things that go hand-in-hand, for to make a sacrifice you have to trust in God; and because we already trust in God we make sacrifices. This is illustrated well in the readings, found on the USCCB site here.

Question: When have I made a financial sacrifice out of love for God?

Alternate Question for Kids: When have I had to give up something that I wanted

I pondered this question a bit before mass and then I heard the readings. The Gospel passage from Mark where the poor widow gives her last coins made me wonder if I really do give as a sacrifice. I asked my husband the question on our ride home and he said yes, we do, we budget for it. That led us into a discussion on whether or not budgeting for our charity counts as a sacrifice.

I've had a few more days to think this over and looking at the question again I can say with confidence that yes, we give financially out of love for God. Our love of God leads us to give to the Diocesan Seminarian Fund every year, it leads us to give to Catholic Relief Services to help them do the work they do in poor countries around the world, and it leads us to give to priestly orders, our church, Relevant Radio, and a variety of other causes.

Is this financial giving a sacrifice for us? I think it is. Yes, we budget for it, but if we didn't I can guarantee that money would end up getting spent somewhere else. If we didn't give we'd probably be more selfish with our money and use it for things that aren't really necessary, in the grand scheme of things. As it is, I know we have set aside a certain amount for charitable causes and my husband tracks it in our budget. We give a certain amount each year to designated charities and the rest we give to other needs and charitable causes as they come up. Just the other day I asked how much we would have that we could give as the year nears it's end. I'm already thinking about which causes I'd like that overage to go to.

It's very important to both of us that out of love for God and as faithful Catholic Christians we give financially to those in need around us, both locally and in the wider world whenever possible.

There is definitely a correlation between the saints discussion and the sacrifice discussion. All of the saints made great sacrifices in their lives to follow God's word to the fullest. Sacrifices of health, material wealth, sacrificing their own will to follow the will of God, and even sacrificing their lives for God. In some cases this can lead to great suffering, but if it is for the greater glory of God we should remember that it is all for good. I heard someone say recently that in the Christian life "suffering is mandatory, anxiety is optional." Now there's something to think about!

When we are faced with a decision regarding making a sacrifice for the betterment of others versus taking the easy road, we should be reminded of the lives of the saints. We are all called to be saints, that's the road to heaven.