Involvement in the Sacrifice of the Mass: Part II

Last week, I tried to respond to concern about how the lay faithful can be involved in the sacrifice being accomplished by the priest standing at the altar. In my response I compared the sacrifice to sending a “peace delegation” to God.

Using an example given by Jesus I suggested that, while the delegation was doing its work, the king and his 10,000 troops would feel powerless and pray for favorable terms. In relation to God the favorable terms are actually his demand for our unconditional surrender. That is because the supreme good of the human race, individually and collectively, consists in being subject to God our Creator.

While the priest is at the altar, then, the people should pray that the sacrifice be pleasing to God and that God, being pleased with our offering, might have mercy on us and upon the whole world. The people should pray that the sacrifice might be acceptable to God and they should offer themselves to God, through, with, and in Jesus Christ, our High Priest. Real involvement in the Mass is deeply interior, in prayer and self-offering.

Still, someone might suggest that all this leaves us rather helpless and passive. Everything takes place up there at the altar and all we can do is pray.

Helpless, yes, that is precisely it. In the matter of salvation we are fundamentally helpless and passive. We cannot save ourselves, but we must be saved by Jesus Christ. Salvation is first of all a gift that we must be willing to receive. To kneel in the pew during the eucharistic prayer is first and above all an expression of helplessness before God; it is the posture of a beggar asking for mercy. It is the posture of the “poor in spirit”. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That is the first and most fundamental of the beatitudes. (Mt 5:3)

Helpless, yes, that was the position of the Holy Mother of God, of St. John, and St. Mary Magdalene as they stood at the foot of the Cross. They could do nothing to help Jesus. They could not drive away the soldiers; they could not silence the taunts of the chief priests and Pharisees; they could not ease Jesus’ suffering; they could not take him down from the Cross. Not only could they not help, they needed the help of his suffering and death.

Even the Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God, who was redeemed beforehand, was contemplating the very sacrifice, the offering of the Blood, that preserved her from sin in the moment of her conception.

Yet, in that helplessness, there is a response: “Amen”. Amen, Jesus to all that you have done for us; Amen, Jesus, and thank you for all that you have done for us.

Then there is the self-offering, through him, with him, and in him; the self-offering born of faith, hope, and love; the self-offering that wants to be with Jesus, to accompany him, and yes, even to console him.

There, marvel of marvels, he lets himself be consoled by our presence. He is consoled most by our desire to be there with him; he is consoled by our desire to offer ourselves with him. His Sacred Heart is wounded by our ingratitude, but it is consoled by our gratitude and presence.

We are able to continue this expression of gratitude, this presence to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this self-offering, through visits to the Blessed Sacrament and Eucharistic adoration during the day.

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.

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