The Sacrifice of the Mass

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beauty of the Eucharist photoI am a long, long way from being what one might call an expert on anything, especially, the liturgy. But as I continue to learn and grow in my faith, there have been a few things I have come to understand about the Mass that I somehow missed as a lifelong, practicing Catholic. I thought that maybe you may have missed them, too, so here they are.

To start, let’s take a look at Chapter 5 of Hebrews. The very first verse says, “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” While the author of this book is considering the high priestly office of the Old Testament, and the divine and human nature of Jesus, I think it is solid footing for thinking about our own beloved priests today.

In one of the Documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Paragraph 10), it says:

“The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. . . .”

What I missed for years is that the sacrifices we bring to the Mass are joined to the priest’s own sacrifices, and the sacrifice of Jesus, and offered to our heavenly Father.

Honestly, I never even realized that I was supposed to be bringing sacrifices to the Mass, and, neither was I particularly conscious of what those sacrifices might be.

So now I am making an attempt to remember my little sacrifices and bring them to the altar. Maybe it is refraining from a comment, or skipping a favorite treat, or giving time to be a good listener. For some people, it might be working at a soup kitchen or some other physical work. Maybe time set apart from a busy day for others will be your sacrifice, or letting love be your first response in a given situation. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. It is all good.

I was watching a show about Blessed Theresa of Calcutta recently and a priest who knew her quite well was saying that she was often asked for her autograph and could spend hours writing her name. This was particularly painful for her because of the pain in her hands. He said she considered her suffering a gift and offered every letter of her name, written through pain, to God! Now that’s real awareness!

When it comes to the liturgy, it is time for us to get away from the idea that we are simply observers. We are invited sons and daughters to this shared worship and offering to the Father. It is time for us to be engaged, actively, in this public worship. After all, the word liturgy means “public work!”

When you look at the Body and Blood of Christ and consider that you are looking at God, the One who created all that is, how is it possible not to be overwhelmed by joy and love and the desire to sacrifice for others in imitation?

I encourage you to become more conscious of opportunities for daily sacrifice, and then bring them to Mass with you the next time you go. You will be amazed how much your participation (and interest) in the Mass increases when you place your spiritual offerings before our Lord, as they are united with the one great sacrifice to the Father.

And trust me, it doesn’t take an expert to do this, which is why it is something all of us are called to do. So what are you waiting for?

Copyright 2013 Janet Cassidy

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