Sacrifices can create various levels of personal inconvenience or pain. Typically, this pain (which can probably be more accurately described as a discomfort or dislike) is not a physical one, but usually an emotional or attitudinal discomfort. And, to truly be a sacrifice, it should be a deliberate act.
Let’s start with the basics. The Merriam-Webster website provides this primary definition for sacrifice: the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.
However, for most Catholics, sacrificing is a seasonal activity as it relates to Lent. Unfortunately, the sacrifice usually ends at Easter too.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides some insight into the role of sacrifice in the Catholic Faith. Initially, in paragraph 28, it states that the human act of sacrifice has often been tied directly to a God-pleasing motive.
In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being: (843, 2566, 2095-2109)
Conversely, I do not believe that being kind, nice, or empathetic to others, should be considered a sacrificial activity – although I have known some people who feel that doing so is a real inconvenience or extraordinary act.
I don’t think that inviting your mother-in-law to dinner or “putting up with” friends and family qualify as a sacrifice either! Although, in some ways these acts could qualify as a sacrifice as it relates to the Catholic teachings on marriage where the Catechism states that the Sacrament of Marriage requires each spouse to sacrifice their individual needs for the other.
In All Seriousness
If we are to truly make sacrifices with the motive of becoming closer to God, it can be simple acts that improve our relationships and/or to be more Christ-like to others. Sometimes, this really is as simple as being nicer or more available to other people in need of our time and attention or becoming a Catholic role model to our children and even strangers.
One of the changes I made over a year ago was something that I never thought I could do. Of course, the circumstances surrounding me had to be aligned properly to get me started. I quit watching television. No cable, satellite, or antennae. Nothing. (Well, almost nothing – I’ll explain.)
First – the reason. I found myself watching too many TV shows. I would either get hooked on the “marathons” or certain dramas, and start scheduling my plans around what was going to be on that night. The DVR made it worse because then I could watch episode after episode for hours.
It was affecting: my work – because I stayed up too late; my productivity – because I was too tired to do anything even when I had the time; my relationships (family and personal) – because the TV was clearly my priority. Did I mention that I am a sports and political junkie too? That means there was ALWAYS something on TV. Therefore, these programs (news and sports) also impacted my attitude.
Second – the perfect scenario. New job(s) and new responsibilities provided some of the motivation. The biggest factor was that my sons were both in college and my wife hadn’t watched TV for about three years. I also waited until AFTER the football season. Therefore, I wasn’t going to get tempted or hooked by anyone or on any program by anyone else. Did I mention that there was a financial benefit too? Saving $75 every month for this bad habit is another incentive.
Third – the solution. First, I cancelled my satellite subscription. Talk about an act of cold-turkey! Well, since I needed noise, I needed a replacement. (Silence is too distracting. I can’t explain it, but I “hear” everything when it is quiet which causes me to lose focus on whatever I am doing. ) I started listening to baseball games or music, almost constantly. At least with these options, I could still be productive at the same time and I was not glued to the TV. I could write, read, cut the grass, check homework, surf the Internet, plan my next day at work, etc.
While my “honey-do” list still exists, communication channels have been opened again, my career is stronger, I am volunteering as an officer and board member of a local organization, and I write a regular article for Catholic Stand – among other activities. So I am evangelizing by word, deed, and example. Is this perfect? By no means, yet it is an improvement.
Have I relapsed? Some could argue, “yes,” but I still do not have TV. When my son(s) are home, I will occasionally join them watching a program on Netflix. This is because I want to, not because I need to. It is also an opportunity to spend some quiet discussion time with them.
I still spend too much time online. Much of this time, though, is to stay connected with the local, national, and international news (and sports scores). I think I have an obligation to be aware both as a businessman and as a citizen to what is going on. I simply do not obsess about it anymore.
So, the big question now is: Am I really making a sacrifice based upon Catholic teachings?
Initially, I could easily argue that it was a sacrifice because I was giving up something that I enjoyed. This was being done for the benefit of others AND for me to become a better Catholic example through my actions and activities.
However, now that I don’t really miss TV anymore, is it really a sacrifice? I think so. I have started a new activity that I have combined with my sacrifice of my enjoyment of television. I am dedicating each days’ sacrifice from TV for a deceased family member, friend, or group of strangers for the purification of their souls in purgatory so that they may enjoy the holiness of heaven.
This is based upon the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture … From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: (958, 1371, 1479).
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611