Sunday, 19 August 2012

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Shaftesbury

Jn 6:51-58; Prov 9:1-6
We’re now in our 4th of 5 weeks of Sundays with Scripture readings on the Eucharist. And I’ve been taking a different focus for each of these Sundays. Last Sunday I preached about how the Lord comes to us in Holy Communion with everything that we need, adapted to each one of us according of what each of us need at this very moment in our lives.
This Sunday I want to shift the focus from receiving to offering, and these things are very intimately related because it is only IF we offer that we are able to receive, and there is a very real sense in which the more we offer the more we receive. In this respect we could quote St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, “He who sows sparingly, shall also reap sparingly: and he who sows generously shall also reap generously... for God loves a cheerful giver”(2 Cor 9:6-7).
What is received in the Mass is Holy Communion, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself fully present, under the appearance of bread but actually present with all that He is: His Body, His Blood, His soul and His divinity.
However, in every Mass, well before we receive Holy Communion, there is something that we must offer: the bread and the wine are offered. This offering from us is taken, prepared, offered, and by the power of the Holy Spirit and the action of the priest speaking the words of the Lord (“This is my Body... This is the chalice of my Blood”), this offering is transformed into Christ Himself.
There are 2 simple things I wish to highlight about this process.

First, the offering of bread and wine should be made in union with much more: our WHOLE LIVES should be offered in union with this offering. When the priest raises the paten holding the bread and utters the words of the offertory prayers we should each be mentally and spiritually placing ourselves on that paten to be offered to God. In particular, the needs and intentions that we bring to that Mass should be mentally placed upon the paten. Whether it’s a job problem or a family problem or a sickness, that petition should be offered on the paten, along with things like thanksgiving and sorrow etc.
Linked with this, it’s an important practice to spiritually unite ourselves with this offering many times during the day: Whenever I pause during the day and renew the offering of my day, and of some particular task or need, I should unite that offering to the Mass, because somewhere in the world the Mass is being offered and I can unite myself with that offering.
This Sunday’s newsletter (also printed at the bottom of this text) has a copy of a ‘Morning Offering’ prayer that does just this –offers my day to God IN UNION WITH the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

My second point is about the nature of the prayer being offered in the Mass. At one level it is OUR prayer, we come here to pray, the priest offers Mass for us. However, at a deeper level it is not so much our payer as the prayer OF JESUS, the eternal priestly prayer of the one eternal High Priest offering the sacrifice of Calvary, of Himself on the Cross. As the new Catechism puts it (quoted at end of this text), quoting the Council of Trent, the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of the Cross are “one single sacrifice”. That one single sacrifice that was then offered in a “bloody manner” is now “offered in an unbloody manner”. A different MANNER of being offered, but the same offering.
AND, and this is a pivotal point, it is BECAUSE it is the prayer of Jesus and not just our own private prayer that it is a prayer with such incredible effect:
A prayer that (1) results in bread and wine being transformed into the Lord Himself as our food;
a prayer that (2) is truly effective in making our offering accepted and heard.

To sum up: We come here to Mass, but we come not merely to receive Holy Communion. In fact, the thing that is more important, the thing that fulfils our Sunday obligation of worship, is not receiving Holy Communion but rather it is attending Mass, uniting ourselves to this Holy sacrifice, offering ourselves in union with this offering –that’s what is the bottom line that fulfils our Sunday Mass obligation.
So, to quote St Augustine, “Let us turn to the Lord”, let us offer ourselves to Him and with Him and through Him, that our offering with the bread and wine, transformed in the Holy Sacrifice, may truly transform us too.

Morning Offering
“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 reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.”

Bloody and Unbloody Offering
“The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.’
‘And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner... this sacrifice is truly propitiatory’.” ( Council of Trent, cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1367)

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