In a sea of red, the Cardinals of the Church gathered over the past few weeks to farewell Benedict, elect his successor, and inaugurate Francis. The red of their dress signifies blood, not Christ’s blood, but their blood, that they have proven themselves ready to spill in service of the faith and the promotion of peace. And indeed, many of the Cardinals have suffered greatly for their faith, even in developed countries where an aggressively anti-Catholic media will use every opportunity to discredit and humiliate them.
But for us ordinary lay people, raising families and living in the secular world, is red really our colour? Are we called to ‘spill our blood’ in the service of Christ and his church? We believe we are, in our own context and in our own sphere of influence.
Sacrifice for Love
Marriage and family life is essentially a self-sacrificial way of life. Living the Gospel calls for radical love, a love that gives and doesn’t ‘count the cost’. It’s totally contradictory to secular values which measures everything against the norm of: what’s in it for me?
In the world, people go into relationships with a transactional mindset: measuring the results against investment, comparing the costs to the benefits. It leads not to generosity and harmony, but to be measured in our love-giving and stingy in our forgiveness. We ask ourselves, ‘Am I getting as much out of this marriage as I’m putting into it?’ A transactional mindset leads us to keep score on our spouse and promotes a self-entitlement mentality.
Such earth-bound accounting can only come up ‘red’ – in human terms the gospel always takes more than it gives. But that’s the wrong accounting system completely! The only system that really matters is God’s system, and the payback in this balance sheet is bigger than we could ever have dreamed. If instead of a transactional mindset, we can adopt a self-giving mindset, we can be sure that God’s grace and blessings will be abundant.
God invites us as Catholic married couples, to embrace a different way to the way of the world; the way of unqualified love and unreserved service. It’s a way that costs us deeply in human terms but delivers abundant intangible rewards.
Red may be the colour blood and sacrifice, but for good reason, it is also the colour of passion and love.