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More on Sacrifice

In my most recent blog article, “The Sacrifice of the Mass,” I wrote on how in our celebration of the Eucharist, God makes present for us the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Now, I want to talk about our response to Jesus’ sacrifice.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “It is right to offer sacrifice to God as a sign of adoration and gratitude, supplication and communion” (2099). I emphasize “gratitude” because we should be thankful that Jesus made this sacrifice. We can show our gratitude by offering sacrifice in return.

Of course, our sacrifice cannot equal Jesus’ sacrifice but it does show our gratitude. It isn’t about the external action of our sacrifice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes on to say “Outward sacrifice, to be genuine, must be the expression of spiritual sacrifice” (2100). Our sacrifices need to show that our heart is humble and contrite (see Psalm 51:18-19).

We unite our own sacrifices to that of Jesus at the Offertory in Mass. The collection is taken up and the gifts of bread and wine are brought forth. Yet, we should not think of what is being offered at that point in terms of just the bread and wine along with the collection. It is symbolic of what we offer as we give of our time, talent, and treasure as a sacrifice to God.

Paul writes to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24). We can offer our sufferings as a sacrifice for the good of others. Yet, how can we fill up what is “lacking in the afflictions of Christ“? In fact, how can anything be “lacking in the afflictions of Christ“?

It’s not that anything is lacking on Christ’s part. All that remains is our response, our willingness to sacrifice in response to Jesus’ love for us. We need to respond with love.

Motivated in love, there are sacrifices that good Christian disciples make often. Think of a parent who makes sacrifices for their children. Think of a parent who drives an old car instead of a new car to use the money to provide for the needs of their children. Think of a parent who gives up their career to raise their children.

Marriage is also meant to involve sacrificial love. The man and woman give themselves completely to each other. As husband and wife they become more concerned for the other than for themselves. In choosing to commit themselves to one person in marriage, they give up being concerned only for their own pleasure. In this way, the marriage covenant of a husband and wife serve as an image of Jesus’ love for his bride, the Church.

People who answer the call to religious life and priesthood sacrifice having a human family of their own to be a sign of Jesus’ total commitment to the world. People who remain single through their entire life can do so in a way that is for the glory of God.

Any worldly thing we give up for the sake of our faith may represent a sacrifice. It might be for our whole lives. It might be a temporary sacrifice.

We are told to stay home right now because of the Coronavirus. If we are only doing it because the government is telling us to, our doing so is just following orders. What is your motivation for staying home?

Are you staying home out of fear, fear that you will get sick? Are you doing just for yourself? When you practice social distancing are you doing just for yourself or for others? Does it make a difference who the other is?

Let me provide a possible example. Prior to the suspension of Masses, our bishop suspended the exchange of the Sign of Peace at Mass and told us not to hold hands or shake hands. This was solely to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus through good social distancing. I like to stand outside before and after Mass to interact with the people I serve. Part of that interaction is to shake hands with those who choose to do so. As we began social distancing, I stopped shaking hands. I didn’t do this for selfish reasons (not getting sick myself). I made a deliberate effort to do this for the sake of others. I didn’t want to risk shaking hands with one person with the virus and passes the virus onto another unsuspecting person. Did this help protect me? Yes, but my concern was more for others.

Of course, there is another side in the Coronavirus. What about those who have to work and put themselves at risk to care for others? Most obvious here are the health care workers who put themselves at risk to take care of the sick. I think of Jesus’ words in John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The health care workers do this even for strangers. I also think of others who put themselves in public like grocery store employers so that we might have the items we need.

What sacrifices do you make in your life now? What sacrifices have you made in the past? Ask yourself if you give something up because you had to or because you have been loved by God and want to show that love to others? It is when we do it for love of God and our neighbor that it becomes a sacrifice that we offer to God in gratitude for all He has done for us.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

5 Comments

  1. Linda House says:

    Thank you again for blog. Another gift and reinforces the idea that mass is not an entertainment but a sacrifice.

    I do have a question on one of your previous blogs. You stated that our churches need to be worthy of what we do there. I certainly agree and feel St Luke’s churches each have their own unique beauty without being overdone. As we watch masses on tv, internet, and from the Vatican I can’t help notice opulence and wonder if that is what God wants? It seems so the money spent on opulence could be better spent on the poor, missions, etc. Are we sending the wrong message to the world? Is that behavior not an example of do what I say not what I do?

  2. Thomas House says:

    Fr. Jeff, Totally agree with yours words of sacrifice of what Christ gave up for us and what we need to do. Please keep the blogs coming.

  3. Fr. Jeff says:

    This is actually an age-old question. You even find a parallel in the gospels. In Mark 14:3-9 (cf. Matthew 26:6-13), we hear of the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with the expensive oil. Those who see this think the oil should have been sold and the money given to the poor. How did Jesus respond? “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them.

    What is needed is thoughtful balance. We need fine things in our churches. For example, we need fine looking chalices, not plastic cups. We need Tabernacles whose appearance signifies the priceless value of what is inside, the Blessed Sacrament. I see no clear dividing line. As churches undergo major renovations or new constructions, one approach I have heard of is to tithe to the poor on a portion of the costs of the work. It’s not the perfect answer but it shows we have not forgotten the poor.

    Peace,
    Fr. Jeff

  4. Linda Wray says:

    Thank you Father Jeff.
    I have enjoyed reading your blogs.
    Be safe and peace be with you!!

  5. Fr. Jeff says:

    Thank you and God Bless.

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