In 2011, when the new English translation of the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition, was introduced, there were several changes to which the priests and people had to adjust. Of all of the changes that I had to learn as a priest, one of my favorite changes came at the conclusion of the Presentation of the Gifts, just before the Prayer Over the Gifts. The new words (which are now not so new) said by the priest are as follows: “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”
The previous translation only mentioned “our sacrifice.” There is clearly a difference in the sacrifice that I, as a priest, offer, and the sacrifice that you, as member of the congregation, offer. But those two sacrifices are joined together into the one sacrifice that the priest offers on behalf of the congregation. So the question that I pose to you is this: what is your sacrifice? To be sure, the physical offering that you offered at the collection is not insignificant, but in some ways, that sacrifice is ordered to the mission of the Church, which is generally done outside of the liturgy in providing for the needs of the poor and other activities at the service of the building of the Kingdom. The sacrifice that I am accepting and offering on your behalf is for the here and now of the Mass. So what should that sacrifice look like? One of our priests recently offered a beautiful explanation of the sacrifice offered in union with the sacrifice of the priest:
Just as bread is formed from many grains of wheat and the wine is formed from many crushed grapes, the various aspects of our lives – our joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams, frustrations and contentment – can all be offered to God as the one offering of our lives. In the quiet of our hearts we can offer these various aspects of our lives together with the bread and wine in such a way that they truly become our sacrifice. We can, in a certain sense, place ourselves on the paten and in the chalice and offer ourselves to the Father, just as Christ Jesus offered himself to the Father.
I find this idea of consciously making a sacrifice of ourselves at Mass one of the keys to unlocking a deeper meaning to our participation in Mass. So much of the Liturgy of the Word can feel passive, in that we are receiving nourishment from the Word of God. At this point, we are invited to be active in making an offering of our sacrifice. But so often, we tend to stay in that passive mode of participating. Sure, we may make the responses to the various prayers, sitting, standing, and kneeling at the proper times, but if we are not consciously choosing to unite our hearts and indeed our very lives, our participation in the Mass can become superficial.
In a previous article in this series, I had reflected on the comment that is sometimes made by people about the Mass, namely that they do not feel like they get anything out of the Mass, to which I often respond: “What are you putting into the Mass?” Consider carefully again the words of the priest at this point: “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” So I ask the question I raised earlier – what is your sacrifice? Do not let another Mass go by without consciously offering that acceptable sacrifice of your entire self to the Lord.