Jesus’ sacrifice is present at Mass

By | November 3, 2010

As we witness the apparent dying of the earth during November the readings we hear at Mass reflect on life, death and eternity. The first reading contains statements of belief in an afterlife and resurrection from the dead. The belief is put on the lips of seven brothers and their mother who refuse to eat meat that was not only forbidden pork, but also came from a sacrifice made to a pagan god. To partake in such a sacrifice would be tantamount to denying the God of Israel. All of them choose torture and death rather than “transgressing the laws of their ancestors.”

The offering of sacrifice has been a part of worship from ancient times. It has been a part of the Judeo-Christian way of prayer from the time of Cain and Abel who offered the first fruits of their labor to God. Whatever was offered was burned to symbolize its total dedication to God. Immolated and burned beyond use, the offering could no longer be used by humans. The offering of sacrifice is still a part of Christian worship in the Mass. The prayers of the Mass mention it several times, especially during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. For example, the priest invites us to pray “that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God the almighty Father” at the end of the preparation of gifts. We answer, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of his church.” Christ himself is our gift, joined with our offerings of money (the fruit of our labors) and ourselves.

As we obey Jesus’ command to take, bless, break and share the bread and wine in “memory of me” we remember his sacrifice on the cross. The Mass makes present in our midst Jesus’ sacrifice “for the life of the world.” As Jesus’ sacrifice is represented in our prayer, we receive the fruits of his death — our salvation and reconciliation with God, the ability to grow in holiness. And so the Mass is a sacrifice.

Because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection we can look forward to everlasting life. Death will not be the end of our lives. Jesus tells us that in today’s Gospel: “…those judged worthy of a place in the age to come and of resurrection from the dead …. become like angels and are no longer liable to death. Sons of the resurrection, they are sons of God.” We do indeed have reason to offer to God a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in our worship together.


Johnston is the former director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc.

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