Last week we had a bunch of family come into town for my husband’s brother’s wedding. It was a busy week filled with morning outings and evening dinners all together (18 kids- most under the age of 10, 2 grandparents, and 13 parents). So by the wedding on Saturday, we were already tired!
My husband and his other brother were groomsmen, which left my 6-month pregnant self in charge of two 5 year olds, a 3 year old, and a 2 year old at the prime hour of naptime for the wedding ceremony. Understandably, the couple behind me asked if they were all mine, but this time I could say no, since one of the 5 year olds was a nephew!
As beautiful as the ceremony was, I was busy keeping the kids occupied, quiet, or not fighting the whole time so at least others could enjoy it. The phrase from scripture “Sacrifice of Praise” from Hebrews 13:15 kept looping through my brain. I wanted to enter more fully into the Mass but it was next to impossible with the busy-ness of the children. I still managed to say all the Mass parts, but the readings are already lost on me. The sacrifice of being unable to enter into the Mass in a quiet, meditative way was joined to the praise in caring for the fruit of my vocation (my children) and also doing my best to glorify God through the Gloria, Creed, and other Mass responses. My heart was there and I know that God recognizes that sacrifice.
Then I started to think about how beautiful the Sacraments are in that we don’t need to be fully prepared to meditate on every word in order to receive the benefit of the grace. Sure, we need a proper disposition to receive the Sacraments (no mortal sin, understanding of the Sacrament, intent to grow closer to God), but we don’t need to perform every act perfectly. Even though I couldn’t enter prayerfully into the Mass, I was still able to receive the Eucharist and offer up that Sacrifice of Praise, still letting that grace into my heart.
And I am so grateful that the Sacraments aren’t really about us, but what God does for us! As I think about the faith journey that my brother-in-law and his new wife have made over the last few years, I rejoice that receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony doesn’t mean that you have already perfected love. It gives you the grace to grow in love. It strengthens you for the journey that lies ahead, and truly is the ultimate wedding gift!
God loves to shower us with his gifts. The beauty of the Sacraments is that they are gifts from God, not public recognitions of our accomplishments or how holy we are. If that was the case, I’d never be able to receive one! They help us to be holy, as long as we are open to receiving those graces!
“Through him let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased with sacrifices of that kind.” Hebrews 13:15-16.