May 29, 2011
Memorial Day This Monday, America celebrates Memorial Day, a day of honoring those in our military who have given their lives not merely for our nation, but for the life, liberty and happiness of each and every individual American. At the Last Supper, Christ told His apostles, “No greater love has a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” That saying pertains directly to the death He endured for our salvation on the very next day, and to a love beyond all measure. But this greatest love is reflected, in a very real way, in the death of every military man or woman who had laid down their lives for us. We owe them an incredible debt—one we cannot really repay. But we can try to, by living lives worthy of the sacrifice they’ve made for us—lives built on the idea of liberty as a freedom to become the best we can be, not a freedom to do as we please. Freedom to build a great nation of not only financial wealth or military strength, but of true virtue. Perhaps a soldier might die for their fellow countrymen’s freedom to say or do foolish things, but should we repay that noble sacrifice by actually saying and doing foolish things—or leading immoral lives? I think not.
And there’s another way we can try to repay them for their sacrifice: pray for them, that they might receive the heavenly reward for their great sacrificial love for us.
Summer For many, Memorial Day is also the unofficial beginning of summer. And as summer begins, we start to see more and more of each other—literally, as more and more skin and body parts are uncovered in the heat. Coming from South Texas I understand all about dressing for the heat. But let’s remember two things. First, the clothes we wear always tell other people something about ourselves. For example, when we dress in shorts and a t-shirt, we say, “I’m relaxing right now,” and when we dress in a coat and tie, or in a nice dress, we say, “I’m doing something important right now.” So, when you go to the beach, wear your shorts and t-shirts, but when you come to Mass, remind yourself and those around you: “I’m doing something important right now.” This summer, please try not to dress like you’re going to the beach when you’re coming to Mass. In return, I promise that if you ever do come to Mass in a t-shirt, I will assume you are not saying “Mass is not important to me”, but simply “I have a really important reason why I couldn’t dress up for Mass as I usually do.” We should dress respectfully for the Lord, but we should also assume the best of one another.
(BTW, please, before you send a letter admonishing me that “God doesn’t care how we dress,” look up Matthew 22:11-14 [“…Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?…”])
The second thing I’d like you to remember about summer dress codes is that the more skin and body parts we show, the more likely we are to be the near occasion of sin to others. This is especially the case for women and girls. That’s not a sexist remark, unless it’s sexist to say that guys tend to react very strongly and irrationally to the female body. I don’t think it is, but if so, okay, I’m a sexist. And so is God, because that’s the way He made us (vulnerable to the effects of original sin, as well). So I ask you, whether on the beach, on the street, on a date, or, especially, at Mass, please consider the spiritual well-being of others. Remember that Jesus said: “every one who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” And he also said: “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to anyone by whom they come!”
Confirmation This Wednesday evening, 95 of our teenagers will be receiving the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation. It saddens me how little most Catholics understand about this great sacrament. Sometimes when I ask people what this sacrament is all about, they tell me: “it’s when we profess and confirm our faith in Jesus Christ for the first time for ourselves.” Not really: every child who comes to Mass on Sunday professes his/her faith in Jesus Christ every time they stand and recite the Creed: “We believe in one God…We believe in Jesus Christ…” Some say Confirmation is when we become adult Christians. Again, not quite. Spiritually, one becomes an adult Christian when one starts making decisions like an adult. The sacrament does give you the grace to make correct adult and Christ-like decisions, but it does not “make you an adult Christian.” Finally, some say Confirmation is when we become “full members of the Church.” Again, not really. One becomes a “full member” of the Church (obtaining all the “rights and privileges” thereof) at Baptism. Thus, for example, a Baptized person has a right to receive the Eucharist and Confirmation (subject to their proper preparation, etc.). Perhaps this misunderstanding comes from (correctly) calling this one of the “sacraments of initiation” (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist). But “initiation” in this sense does not mean that Church “membership” depends on having all three of these sacraments, but that these sacraments give the basic graces that every adult Christian needs to live the fullness of the Christian life.
Remember the definition of a sacrament in general: “an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.” Sacraments are never about what WE do—they are about what CHRIST does, i.e., Christ gives us a special grace. In Confirmation, Christ strengthens—or “confirms”—us with the grace, or the “gift,” of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, which includes the “seven gifts of the Holy Spirit”: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, reverence and piety. Of course, much more can be written about this magnificent sacrament. But space being limited here, I refer you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1285 to 1321 (this can be viewed online at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc/index.htm). To see some of the effects of this sacrament, read the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2.
Please pray for our young men and women as they receive this great sacrament at the hands of Bishop Loverde this Wednesday evening. And pray that they may always be open to the graces that flow from the sacrament, truly living lives filled with the Holy Spirit.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles