True worship is not just prayer time but obedient service with our whole life. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). And Romans 12:1 exhorts us, “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” It’s a command: “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” What constitutes our body? Our whole life, mind, heart, soul, intellect, activity, and capability. And how do we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice? It’s what the Church expresses in the traditional morning offering—that we want to offer our whole life and all our activities to the Lord. 

Everything we do should be increasingly rooted in our love of God and neighbor, under Christ’s lordship, and in harmony with his will. We are called to be obedient sons and daughters of God. Obedience is not popular today, but this is the way to really love God. 

A Lifelong Process 

This obedience and love of God is a lifelong process. Over time, we get more life from the Holy Spirit and grow in obedience to the Lord. We experience increased healing in our hearts and souls that enables us to forgive people and love them more. We increase our own desire and love for God. We spend more time in prayer and loving service of other people. And we grow in our ability to endure suffering, difficult relationships, and illnesses with greater peace and patience, offering them to the Lord as part of our worship. 

Mary is often presented as a model of discipleship. She wasn’t a divinity, but she was a special human being. She was conceived without original sin; there was nothing in her of disordered desire or inclination to evil. At Fatima, Mary said Jesus wants to establish devotion to her Immaculate Heart. That means we should desire a pure heart like Mary’s, which for us requires a struggle. We need to engage in the process of spiritual growth. We need to desire to grow in holiness and be alert to those little warnings the Holy Spirit gives us that say we’re doing something that isn’t pleasing the Lord. We need to repent and accept the truth that the Holy Spirit reveals to us about our own selfishness, mixed motives, or disordered desires. We need to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and healing. When appropriate, we should go to reconciliation and seek inner healing through something like the Unbound method or the John Paul II Healing Center.

Mary and Joseph knew how special Jesus was, but they didn’t completely understand how things would play out. They had to walk through human life, and as holy as Joseph was, he still had to deal with the fallenness of our human nature. Part of Joseph’s worship was obeying what God showed him: don’t be afraid to take this woman, her baby is from the Holy Spirit, leave for Egypt in the middle of the night because Herod’s trying to kill the child. It’s not a lot of fun to get up in the middle of the night—especially to leave for Egypt—no matter how holy you are! An angel didn’t just pick them up and take them to Egypt. And when Mary was pregnant and had to go to Bethlehem, she wasn’t miraculously transported there. They endured a jostling donkey ride, long walks, a lot of time spent going from place to place, and just waiting and being. 

Life wasn’t easy for Joseph and Mary. They had to walk the path; they couldn’t take the shortcut. They had to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem, from Bethlehem to Egypt, and from Egypt back to Nazareth. Joseph had to build craftsman products and figure out how much to charge, and Mary had to do laundry and make meals. They had to walk through all those human things—but they did so in obedience to the Lord, which made their lives a living sacrifice. Mary’s “yes” at the Annunciation had to be carried out in daily “yeses,” love, and service. That’s how our lives also become living sacrifices—by daily “yeses” in our responsibilities of life, with the work He’s given us to do, the illnesses He’s given us to bear, and the disappointments He’s permitting us to experience. 

Sexual Morality 

This idea of becoming a living sacrifice also has implications for sexual morality. First Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Sexual immorality is offensive to our bodies, which are also the bodies of Christ. Our worship is not just in Mass or in our prayer time; our worship is loving and obeying God in all the circumstances of our lives. We do this by not being “conformed to this world but (by being) transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). 

A Day in his Courts 

We renew our minds by meditating on the Word of God, daily prayer, and humility. “For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him” (Rom 12:3). Often, people are discontented with their lot in life, and such situations require discernment. Sometimes the situation isn’t what the Lord wants, and we need wisdom to make changes. And sometimes, holiness means accepting our lot in life. When discernment indicates that, consider Psalm 84:10: “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” The privilege of being a son or daughter of God with the hope of eternal life is enough for us. The gift of his grace to help us fulfill our responsibilities, resist temptation, and repent and ask forgiveness when needed is enough. 

Members of the Same Body 

Our salvation is bound up in our relationships—how we live in our families and whether our families are blessed or suffering. Whatever their challenges or consolations, our salvation depends on how we relate to the people in our immediate and wider families. We all have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. Let’s use our gifts and accept each other’s differences. Let’s accept that we don’t have every gift that others have. Let’s accept what God has given us and thank God for his gifts. I regularly thank God for having a home, heat, electricity, and food. Many people don’t have basic things that we take for granted. Therefore, let’s be grateful to God even for our existence. He didn’t have to create us or share with us the possibility of eternal life with no more sorrows. How amazing that He’s given us the possibility of eternal love and life, if we simply persevere and keep saying “yes”! 

True Worship 

Worship God with your money and your encouragement of others. Worship God with your exhortations and by helping others. Our Lord gives aid with zeal and does acts of mercy with cheerfulness. When we live life in obedience to Him, “let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord” (Rom 12:9-10). Lord, let it be! Stir up in us the grace of your Holy Spirit. Let that living flame of love purify our souls. Help us to “rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Rom 12:12). Worship includes our obedience, love, service, and using our gifts. The Lord asks us to live in awareness of his presence and talk and listen to Him all day long. He also asks us to, 

Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.Bless those who persecute you . . . Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. (Rom 12:12-15) 

Carrying the Cross 

In conclusion, remember the example of Mary, who kept saying “yes”—not only at the Annunciation but even when puzzling, painful things happen. When they finally found Jesus in the temple, she said, “Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously” (Lk 2:48). Despite all the graces they had and all the special things that had been shown to them about their child, they didn’t get it all. They experienced pain and hurt, and there are going to be painful and hurtful things in our own lives. Just like Mary, we need to keep saying “yes” and drawing our strength from the Lord. In doing so, we can truly worship the Lord with our whole lives.

This article is condensed from one of Ralph Martin’s recent YouTube videos. It originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ June 2024 newsletter.