I have it heard so many times in the last year or so that the generation in school now will probably be the first generation in some time in American History who will not have it better than their parents. Increasing debt, both personal and national, paired with slimmer job prospects, skyrocketing education costs, and moral decay are all conspiring against those in our future. The cause of this comes from the same root: we do not sacrifice anymore. In a society that prefers to be served and not to serve, the "I want it all" attitude prevails. Unfortunately other people, especially those placed in our care and those who will be placed in their care, will suffer the consequences. This same fact has plagued us in so many ways, in our world and in our church.
The unwillingness to sacrifice comes from a very dark place in the human soul, a place of rebellion against God. It follows the attitude of Satan, whom in Paradise Lost John Milton writes: "Ego non serviam!" "I will not serve." Sacrifice is necessary for service, but sacrifice is willing to put the needs of another before oneself. It is seen in a good parent who willingly gives up pleasures they might enjoy, or even personal necessities, to make sure their child has what they need. This isn't just a matter of things, but of time and energy as well. Where sacrifice is absent, however, absent also is the love of God. Without the love of God, our projects are castles of sand built on sand on the shore of the sea. We are finding out in this culture that living for oneself is costing us dearly, not only cheating future generations, but also ending in our own destruction as well. This society, a society that consumes like locusts to satiate its materialistic longings, is a society that shows all the marks of a society in decline: moral decay, promiscuous licentiousness, an over emphasis on leisure and sports, the overindulgence of instincts, and a declining emphasis on the spiritual. Too many people think all is lost so they might as well party till the fall comes. This is nonsensical.
The virtue of self-control and sacrifice, also known as temperance, helps us to be wise about the expenditure of our time and our energy and do so with the love of God infusing our efforts. Thus temperance is where we begin. How is it that I can use what I have to benefit others? This is particularly the case in tithing. In tithing, we make a sacrifice of self for the good others. WE help out our local parish so that the mission of Christ might be able to come about in its fullness. So many parishes limit what they do because the monies are not there to do so. Unfortunately the group that needs it most is the group most often treated minimally: our teenagers. So many times we reduce our Catholic stuff to maybe an hour for Mass on the weekend and maybe an hour for education ( if the teens are not in Catholic Schools) and presume that this is enough or that even this is a colossal burden. If we were to dedicate just the minimum time for masses every year, we are talking a maximum of 56 hours out of the 8760 hours of a year! (.006%!) If we dedicate the normal time allotted for youth education (non parochial school students) one would add another 38 hours of the 3760 hours in the year for a grand total of 94 hours a year (1%) for their religious formation. That is what we provide for these youth to grow up to be holy young men and women?! They will spend more time cleaning up, watching TV, playing video games, on sports, on school, on jobs, on sleeping, on partying. Youth activities, even education, are commonly held in much lower esteem than school activities and trying to plan for church youth activities is like trying to steer a Cooper Mini through traffic during the Indianapolis 500. In case we are wondering why there is such a dearth in priestly and religious vocations.... It is time for some temperance. That doesn't mean we quit doing these things, just in appropriate moderation that reflect our priorities as Catholics. If a child never learns sacrifice and having to make hard choices based on good principles and priorities, they will be ill suited for the future.
How do I serve? How do I encourage service? How do I embrace sacrifice for others? The more we get this and act on it, the better suited we are for the future. We can see what living for yourself has wrought in this society. We can do better. Our faith demands better. Maybe the sacrifice begins with getting our priorities straight. there is a great saying by CS Lewis, " Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in, aim at earth and you will get neither." We are transient beings whose end is not here and now. Whether we choose to believe that or not does not change this.Aim eternally and let your priorities reflect that! If we do not, then not only will we lose eternal life but this life will be reduced to the nonsense and pain of greed and envy so prevalent in our world right now. Find ways to serve. Find ways to serve as a family. See the 94 hours as a jumping off point for an entire life and not hoop to jump through to satisfy an unfair God. If we are to ever get the priests and religious we need, it will start from the nurturing of service. If Jesus says about Himself that "The Son of Man came to serve and not to be served", can we as His followers profess any less? Nurture service and its attendant sacrifice and we will be providing well for future generations in a way that stockpiles of wealth can never do.