This past week, I was going through various Catholic content online, and I was struck by some interesting realizations. Many were willing to talk about praying for the dead, but they refused to say the word purgatory. Likewise, they talked about how good it is to pray for the dead, but they refused to use words like sacrifice and atonement… words that we hear very clearly in today’s second reading.
I can tell you that in 2021, among Catholics one of the most controversial statements you can make is to say that what we do in this moment is to offer a sacrifice in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. We have perhaps heard those words in the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which was given not by man but by Jesus Christ himself to St. Faustina…. And I believe he gave it precisely because he knew that in our modern times we would reject the notion of the Eucharist as sacrifice and prayer as sacrifice. In the words of Hebrews 13:15, “I will offer a sacrifice of praise.”
We come here on Sunday not primarily to make ourselves feel better or to be connected to other people or to hear interesting ideas and teaching… but we come here to offer sacrifice to God as an obligation that we are required to do because of the natural law and the divine law… and this too is controversial. This too seems offensive to our modern sensibilities that teaches us religion is about not what we offer to God as we ought but what God offers to us because ultimately we hold that religion and sacrifice is not about pleasing God but about pleasing ourselves.
You will never find the holiness in this life if you seek to please yourself. Rather, happiness is found in giving yourself completely to God and to neighbor. In this regard, you come here to offer you life as a sacrifice and to you unite yourself with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The more you learn to do this through the sacrifice of the Mass, the more you pattern the rest of your life will take on this flavor of holiness. Thus, you will learn to love your neighbor as yourself and to how lay down your life for others.
Remember, the mystery of your life is ultimately not about you, but what God wants to do through you and with you.
I don’t want to say that you should get nothing out of it. I am not saying that you should completely set aside your feelings. When an athlete seeks a championship, he seeks glory first and he delights in his victory as a secondary cause. In fact, this changes the nature of the joy he feels. It is categorically different from pleasure and immediate gratification. In this way, we ought to seek glory first and learn to delight in the good life. Thus we can say that we ought to seek not happiness, but glory… and, paradoxically, when you achieve glory, you will find true happiness. So it is with the devout soul that seeks God with complete abandonment.
In today’s Gospel, there is a contrast between the complete abandonment of the poor widow and the ostentatious display of the religious leaders. Notice that Jesus does not ask the widow if she is happy or if she is satisfied. He does not speak of her happiness or her subjective state, but he notes that no matter what she feels or thinks, she has done a great deed by offering a true sacrifice to God.
And yet we can also guess that rich people and scribes are very satisfied with their sacrifices. They can be consoled by the compensation they receive, the praise of the world, and the good esteem of the world… but I ask you good friends, do you pray when no one is looking? Do you do good when no one will notice?
Or do you blow your horn like the hypocrites who offer sacrifice that they might be noticed.
I challenge you, what you do when no one is looking will define you. The sacrifices you do in secret will win not the praise of the world and the masses, but will be the delight of angels and saints who will wait until the close of the age to sing your praises.
Live not for this world. Live not for the praise of men and women, but for the Lord who sees what you do in secret.
So commit yourself to the hidden life of prayer, piety, and devotion. Devoutly pray the Mass. Unite your hidden sacrifices with the sacrifice of the Mass. Pray your rosary and confess your sins daily as if it was the very air you breath. Commit yourself to the life of devotion and let it consume you day by day… and when you come to the close of this age, your name will be numbered not among the damned in hell but the saints in heaven. You will achieve the glory for which you have been created.
Seek not happiness, but glory… and when you achieve glory, you will find true happiness.