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Your sacrifice and mine

By Msgr Michael de Verteuil

Chair, Liturgical Commission

The Mass, the source and summit of the Christian life, has been called by many names—from the scriptural ‘Lord’s Supper’ and the ‘Breaking of Bread’ to today’s ‘Eucharist’. The name by which it has been known for a long time is ‘The Sacrifice of the Mass’ sometimes ‘The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass’.

What does this word mean–sacrifice? Its common meaning today is something you give up, often involving pain of various intensity for the sake of a perceived good, yours or someone else’s.

The early Church saw it a little differently (e.g. Romans 12:1–2 “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice”). Sacrifice was your whole life offered to God. Sacrifice was the gift of self to God, and the gift of yourself to another as brief as the moment might be.

Jesus’ whole life was sacrifice in that it was all offered to God, (“I only do what the Father tells me”) which led to the Crucifixion, the summary of the self-gift of His life.

When we see only the Cross as the sacrifice of Jesus, well, what is our sacrifice since we are probably not going to be crucified or martyred in any other way?

Our sacrifice is the self-gift in every day, as a parent, a spouse, a neighbour; all the ways we are kind; our generosity with time, talent, treasure; how we work; the kind of student we are; our recreation, housework; our eating; our conversations; our prayer–everything offered to God.

When we come to Mass, we come as people who throughout the week have been trying to offer our whole life as an offering to God (anything we cannot offer to God is sin).

We come to join our gift of self with Jesus’. His was the ultimate gift of a life to God, He who has done all things well, even to the Cross, that high point of His sacrifice of which we make memorial at Mass. And so, we join our feeble sacrifice, the gift of our lives, to that of Jesus.

We place the gift of ourselves, as it were, on the altar with the bread and wine. The priest says, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that your sacrifice and mine may be acceptable to God the almighty Father”–our gift one with the self-gift of Jesus to the Father so that through Him and with Him and in Him, all glory and honour may be the Father’s.