St. Gregory the Great: ‘The Mass will be a sacrifice for us to God, when we have made an offering of ourselves’
By Bishop Richard F. Stika
O Lord, “let our sacrifice be in your presence today and find favor before you.” — Daniel 3:40
To those who say, “I don’t get anything out of Mass,” Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen would answer, “It’s because you must bring something to it.”
This is so important that we should ask ourselves every day, “What do I bring to Mass?” In continuing with our year of reflection upon the liturgy and the Eucharist, it would be good for us to reflect upon the offertory of the Mass.
In order to better understand the Mass, it is important to understand a very beautiful truth about our baptism. For by virtue of our baptism, we are not only united to Christ as members of His body, but we also share in His threefold mission—Priest, Prophet, and King.
In regard to the offertory, our share in Christ’s priesthood makes it possible for us to offer our gifts and our very selves in union with Him. Being more united with Him through faith, hope, and love is what makes us holy. Therefore, it is the triple dignity of our baptism that helps us to be the saints we are called to be—“to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Our participation in Mass calls for the exercise of our baptismal priesthood. This is because there is but one sacrifice offered at every Mass—the one and same sacrifice that Christ offered on Calvary to the Father. And since the liturgy is the action of the whole Christ, body and head, His priestly sacrifice must include ours.
Here we must be careful to distinguish between the “baptismal” or “common” priesthood of the laity and the “ministerial” priesthood of the ordained. For while there is but one priesthood of Christ that we all share in, there are different ways of participating in it.
Our baptism enables us to participate in the sacred liturgy as members of the mystical body of Christ. But through the sacrament of holy orders, the priest is configured to Christ the head and enabled to act in the person of Christ and to serve and help the faithful to live out their priestly, prophetic, and kingly office.
Now that we have a clearer idea of the baptismal priesthood, let’s seek to understand our offering. What is it that we should offer? In a word, everything—your soul, your body, and your heart; all your life, all your prayers and sacrifices, your joys and disappointments, your crosses, anxieties, and sufferings, your loneliness and trials, your labors and works of mercy.
Offer to God your vocations in life, be it as clergy or religious, the dedicated single life, as husband or wife, father or mother and your children, and all your worries about them and your families.
And as your material gift of support for the Church and for the poor is collected, and the gifts of bread and wine are brought up, call upon your angel to bring your spiritual offering to the altar as well.
In giving thanks for all of God’s gifts that we have received from Him and which we now place upon the altar, we are enjoined by the priest, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”
And in responding, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His name, for our good and the good of all His holy Church,” we are filled with a holy expectation of a miraculous exchange.
For the “something” we have offered will, during the consecration, become “someone”—Christ Jesus!
This is why in Masses when the gifts and the altar are incensed, the priest and all the faithful are also incensed—for each of us is a holy temple and our heart a spiritual altar upon which we offer ourselves as a gift to God.
With the consecration, the bread and wine we offer are transubstantiated into the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world—a sacrifice pleasing and acceptable to God! We began by making an offering of ourselves with and through the gifts of bread and wine. And with the consecration, we now offer ourselves to the Father through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ in an act of perfect worship. The Mass is truly Christ’s sacrifice, but now we can say that it is our sacrifice, our praise and adoration, our thanksgiving.
The Mass does not end when we leave church each week. The command, “Go forth, the Mass has ended,” means we must now go and live our offering united to Jesus. And when we make a series of offertories of our days as an extension of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the heavenly hymn of praise resounds in our lives—“You made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth” (Revelation 5:10).
O Jesus, through the immaculate heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in thanksgiving for your favors, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.