Thursday, October 2, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Catholicism and Self-Indulgence

Can you tell I'm still on a "sacrifice" kick? This topic fascinates me so much because when I was attending a non-denominational church, so little was said about sacrifice. In fact, I can't remember when I ever heard a sermon talk about denying self and taking up the cross.

Instead, what I heard was:

  • Growing in "spiritual authority"
  • Servant evangelism
  • Claiming our identity in Christ
  • Living the "abundant life"
  • Building a powerful prayer life
  • Grace and forgiveness
  • "Mercy ministries"

These are all good things, but to me, are the natural fruit of a Christian who has died to self. When you sacrifice your preferences and embrace the possibility of whatever God has planned for you, doors will be thrown wide open for ministry.

I don't know why I keep hammering on the "dying to self" message. I may need to hear it myself more than anyone. I just know that powerful things happen when we lay down our lives for the cause of Jesus Christ. Love - the way God intended for us to love - is a sacrifice. Every time we place someone at the head of our "to do" list, we are loving them and dying to self. Every time we say, "How can I help you," we are dying to self, sacrificing our preference to move along to whatever we want to do so we may be available to someone else's need.

Catholicism seems to have understood this for many, many centuries. It is why they embrace martyred saints and remember them. Those martyrs are a clear reminder of what a sacrificial life looks like. It is in stark contrast to the "me-first" culture we now currently live in. Catholicism reminds believers every time they attend Mass that this life isn't about pursuing happiness at all cost, it is about meditating upon what Jesus Christ did for the world in order to bring us into relationship with God our Father.

I think this is why I have an almost knee-jerk reaction to my fellow Catholic "progressives." I don't see the sacrifice. I see an insistence upon "rights" which, when you really get down to it, are self-indulgent in nature. Why should a woman become a priest? I mean, really. Why? So that she can celebrate the Mass... okay. Got that. But why is it so important for a woman to be allowed to celebrate Mass? Why does it matter so much?

It would seem the reason why it matters so much to them is because they are pursuing a self-indulgent path. I don't buy into the whole "But I am 'called' by God to do this..." No. God doesn't call us to promote ourselves. He calls us to serve. Within the Roman Catholic Rite, the priest serves as an icon of Jesus Christ. It is a mystery. But to clarify a point - God made man first, not woman. Man was not made for woman, but woman for man. If this is an accepted truth, then to me it is the height of presumption on the part of a woman to believe she should be the one to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

A woman is not an initiator - both physically and spiritually. She is built to receive. It is why women are, for the most part, much more receptive to things of the Spirit. She is able to comprehend spiritual things more easily than men. Men are the "doers" in life. They initiate. They take action. They pursue.

This may sound like basic Dating 101, but I feel it has a place in the Mass. Going back to self-indulgence, women who desire to present the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are stepping outside of their created roles. It isn't a matter of "becoming relevant to society" or adhering to newer cultural mores. It is a matter of God's purpose.

God desires for us to die to ourselves in many ways. Only Catholicism has spoken this truth in a clear and consistent way. From the priests and nuns, and various orders taking their vows of self-denial, so we also have periods in the liturgical year that promote abstaining from various pleasures. I remember when I started to realize I was no longer around Catholics during the weeks preceding Easter. No one was talking about giving anything up because Lent wasn't a reality for them.

Know that when we give up anything, God always has something much better to give to us. Precious metals of faith and diamonds of grace will fill our souls. And the light that shines forth from such treasure is what the world really needs to see most. I'll be praying that we all will shine brightly with His love for a fallen world.


owenswain said...

To die is gain

X said...

Another great post!

Janny said...

Mary Rose, you nail it time and time again. Well done!