Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”
For months, I have listened to familiar words from a distance, spending part of every Mass in the chapel next to our church’s sanctuary, nursing our youngest when he fusses.
“May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands,” I hear echoing off the chapel walls, “for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy church.”
I long to be back in the pew, but the baby spits up again. The contrast cuts sharp in my mind’s eye: the priest’s hands holding shining gold vessels, mine swabbing stains with a damp burp cloth.
What is the sacrifice at the priest’s hands that we celebrate in call and response? The gifts of bread and wine? Our prayers of praise and thanksgiving? The memorial of Christ’s sacrifice of love?
Yes to all of this. The sacred mysteries of our faith.
But sitting apart from the congregation, I hear it differently, too. Voices young and old joined together, gathering from homes and schools and workplaces, offering the sacrifices of their lives to God.
Their voices remind me to look down and see the sacrifice I hold in my lap. The surrender of my own desires to my child’s needs.
“May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands.” I carry these words as I bring the baby back to our pew.
Could this refrain be a prayer I carry into my ordinary time? To ask that the sacrifices of my own hands might become a worthy offering to God?
Sacrifice is thick at the hands I know, once I open my eyes to see.
Adult children caring for their aging father, bathing and feeding the one who once washed and fed them. A single mother who stays up late sewing to support her three children with special needs. New bakery owners who spend hours kneading dough and crunching numbers to birth their dream.
I pray for them as the week winds on. As I pull wet laundry from the washer, carry groceries, wipe the dog’s paws and pour medicine for sick children.
May the Lord accept the sacrifices at these hands, too. The gifts of lives poured out and broken open and given up in humble memory of the God we love.
Think of all the things hands can do. Think of the thousand things your hands have done this week.
Our hands type spreadsheets and file bills. They grow grimy with dirt in gardens to feed others. They get slick with motor oil to keep machines running. They send texts to friends and hold open doors for strangers.
Hands get calloused from shoveling, pruned from washing and wrinkled from years of labor. They raise families, build businesses, support communities and fix problems.
Not all hands offer sacrifice, of course. We can be tempted toward selfishness instead. Some hands cannot hold or carry, so they need the support of others.
But the limits of our fingers teach us as much as their abilities. We do not get through life without help. And we all know when our hands have done hard work out of love.
We may never grasp the fullness of Christ’s sacrifice — on the cross or in every Eucharist. But what we touch here on earth can remind us.
In the words of St. Teresa of Avila, Christ has no hands now but yours.
Laura Kelly Fanucci is a mother, writer and director of a project on vocation at the Collegeville Institute in Collegeville, Minnesota. She is the author of several books, including “Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting,” and blogs at www.motheringspirit.com.