Join our Lenten Campaign 2024.
The human compulsion to offer sacrifice to God goes right back to the beginning of time. Abel “brought one of the best firstlings of his flock” (Gn 4:4) and offered it to God in sacrifice. Once the flood waters receded and the ark rested securely on land, Noah “built an altar to the Lord and offered holocausts on the altar” (Gn 8:20). Abraham was so devoted to God that he was willing to sacrifice even his own beloved son in obedience to God (Gn 23:9-14). When the ark of the covenant was returned to Jerusalem and “set in its place, David offered holocausts and peace offerings before the Lord” (2 Samuel 6:17).
What moves all these holy people to offer sacrifice is their mindfulness of the great works of God carried out on their behalf. But God has given us something that can’t begin to compare with what he gave to Abel, Noah, Abraham, and David. God has so loved us that he sent us his only Son. And that Son, Jesus, died on a cross for us. How can we possibly ever honor that? What could ever be enough?
The only adequate response to God’s extravagant generosity to us is to make a gift to him of what he has given us. The Eucharist is a sacrifice: the “human response to God’s creative act of mercy” (Fr. Colman O’Neill, O.P.). The liturgical offering of the Eucharist is our sacrificial act of saying thank you. By our union with Christ as Mass, our sacrifice of thanks is joined with Jesus’ sacrifice of himself to the Father.
The wonder of love radiating from the Eucharist moves us to exclaim: Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me. Your sacrifice on the cross put an end to all the crippling shame that has kept me closed in on myself, depressed and in darkness. Your death has set me free, lifted me up, filled me with joy, blessed me with hope, energized me, animated me, given me a passion for life I could not find otherwise. I love you, Jesus. I thank you, Jesus. Your sacrifice makes me want to make my life an unending sacrifice to you.
Installments in this series can be found each week here: Real Presence
Also, find Fr. Peter John Cameron’s weekly reflection on the Sunday liturgy here, with a video and written reflection.