A wonderful friend of mine was having serious problems with her teenage daughter. She was getting into all kinds of trouble in school, keeping company with less than stable friends, failing in her grades etc. You know what I am talking about! She did everything possible to reason with her but nothing seemed to work. One day, she called me to ask for some advice. I did not feel up to the task since often times all that parents can do in situations like this is wait patiently and be vigilant that their children don’t hurt themselves. This was little consolation for my friend since her daughter was going through massive changes, both physically and emotionally. I reminded her that Catholics have and arsenal of spiritual weapons to help us get through the hard times. I invited my friend to consider making special intercession for her daughter and that I would help buy making a special sacrifice for the purpose of her health, well-being and sanctification. The prayers began to take affect but not immediately. Slowly, as mom prayed more, God gave her the gifts of patience and wisdom to help manage her daughter and to win her heart again. I prayed that God give both mom and daughter the grace to reconcile and that they both be protected from the sin of Anger toward each other.
I would like to tell you that everything turned out perfect, but life often requires a constant practice of self-sacrifice and prayer in order to put order back into our lives. I am convinced, however, that the power of self-sacrifice as intercessory prayer is the most Christian way of praying. We imitate Christ when, for the love of another, we offer a sacrifice. A sacrifice consists of giving, not what we have left over, but what we need in order to make us aware of our radical dependency on God. Indeed, at every mass we are asked to make a sacrifice of thanks-giving. At mass, the “first collection” is the sacrifice of the community that is united to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for the salvation of souls. This is a duty for all and is an expression of our faith and gratitude to God. The “second collection” is not obligatory, but rather it is an appeal for charity. Notice that the difference between the first and second collection is that the first collection is a duty that expresses our gratitude and love for God while the second is an expression of solidarity with those in need.
I think that Jesus, in today’s Gospel, is clear with regard to the powerful relationship between sacrifices and prayer. God is not too impressed with the meager left-over offerings we tend to give on Sunday and then expect God to be grateful for what we have given. It doesn’t work that way! If we can be astute in worldly issues, we should be as astute in favor of the Kingdome of God? Support the Church and its mission to save souls. When it comes to God, no gift goes unrewarded.
Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez