Monday, January 17, 2011

Beset by weakness

Readings for Monday, January 17:
Hebrews 5:1-10
Psalm 110:1-4
Mark 2:18-22

In each celebration we are invited by the priest to "pray...that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father." In the Latin, however, the 'our sacrifice' is actually 'my sacrifice and yours'. Why is this distinction important? It points to the fact that each of us if offering something in particular. When we go to Mass we don't just watch the priest offer bread to the Father; we are supposed to be offering the sacrifices of our lives - the gift of our joys, sorrows, sufferings, and every word, deed, and action of our life that day. We lift all of those things up to the Lord and He takes them and transforms them with the sacred host and we receive the grace to persevere in all that comes our way. 

Connected with this fact of the individual aspect of the sacrifices brought to the altar of God, there is the fact that the priest has a special place in this sacrifice. In the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews we hear of how every high priest is chosen from among men and because he suffers from his own weaknesses as a person, he must offer sacrifices not only for others but also for himself. He must be purified in order to offer well the sacrifice that he receives from the people before him. This is highlighted in the celebration of the Mass by the fact that immediately before this invitation to prayer is said, the priest washes his hands and prays that he be cleansed from his iniquity. From the perspective of one preparing to be ordained a priest in just a few months, this is strikingly beautiful. As the days pass by, I become more and more aware of my own inadequacy and weakness at undertaking such a ministry but trust that, cleansed from any impurity myself, the Lord will accept my sacrifice and so make me worthy to offer to Him the sacrifices of His beloved people. 

Isn't it amazing how the spiritual life, the scriptures, and the sacrifice of the Mass are so intimately connected?