Sunday’s Gospel gives us an example of the kind of offering that God desires. Jesus comments on a widow’s offering of two small copper coins, worth one cent. He tells his disciples, “… this poor widow contributed more than all the others. She gave from her want, all that she had to live on.”
At Mass we contribute to the gifts which are brought forward to be offered up to God. During the early centuries of the church the people would take part in the “Offertory Procession,” bringing up products that they had made or food, sometimes even livestock. The bread and wine used for the Eucharist often came from their homes. Today we place money into baskets which are passed through the assembly. Most of us recognize that our monetary gifts represent our work and the products of our work.
But our giving at Mass shouldn’t stop there. We are also to consciously offer ourselves. We do this by realizing that when the priest places the bread and wine on the altar, we also (in our thoughts) place ourselves on the altar. During the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest prays that the Holy Spirit will change the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood. He will also pray that the Spirit will also transform us to live more deeply the life of Christ.
But what is it exactly that we offer — our physical selves? The gift that we spiritually place on the altar includes our joys, our talents and loves. Sometimes it may include our trials, our sorrows or tattered dreams. At all times it includes our lives — who we are, who we are meant to be; all that we do and dream; all our strengths and weaknesses. This is the offering God wants from us.
Then, when the priest lifts up the chalice which now contains the precious blood and consecrated host to offer and says, “Through him, and with him and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory are yours, Almighty Father, for ever and ever,” we add our ascent by singing “Amen.” And we, warts and all, because we are joined with the perfect offering of Christ, are an acceptable gift to God.
Johnston is the former director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc.