Ask Father Tom: ‘My sacrifice and yours’

“For this is my Body, which will be given up for you. … Do this in memory of me.”

By Father Tom Knoblach

Those words need no introduction. The consecration of bread and wine to become the very body and blood of Jesus Christ is the source and summit of the life of the Church, and the Eucharistic Revival now begun invites us ever deeper into this inexhaustible mystery of faith.

The Eucharist centers the Church, of course, not as an object of devotion or a cherished and ancient ritual, but because it is the living and abiding, real and personal presence of Jesus himself: “Know that I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Two things are proclaimed in the words of consecration. With “This is my Body” we know by faith the sacramental but fully real presence of Jesus — the same Jesus who hung upon the cross and rose from death and now draws us into communion with God and one another.

But the second clause is also essential: “given up for you.” At the core of the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Christ. The Revival reminds us that sacrifice is also the pattern of our discipleship: “Whoever does not take up his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

Indeed, just before the Preface at every Mass, the celebrant invites: “Pray that my sacrifice and yours will be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”

My sacrifice and yours: What does that mean? In the first place, of course, it means our prayerful union with the one perfect offering of Jesus on the cross, the redemption of all things. When we gather for Mass, mercy is fully revealed, and time itself is changed, so that we do not just remember something that happened 20 centuries ago; it is our reality, here and now. As Jesus offered his life for us, so we too offer our lives through him to the Father.

But “my sacrifice and yours” also gets very personal, very individual. Over the years of ministry, I have been inspired and truly humbled by glimpses of the sacrifices the members of the body of Christ offer, and I don’t mean whatever folks put in the collection or donate to worthy causes.

These sacrifices go far deeper. Some offer their sorrows and losses; their prayers and anxieties for loved ones; their frustrations at hopes that will never be fulfilled, plans that will never be realized, reunions that will not take place in this world. There are the aches and pains and diminishment of aging; the abilities and opportunities that have disappeared with time; the friendships that are gone, sometimes suddenly and sometimes gradually.

Some offer weary hours of work and care for others who may never say thank you; misunderstandings and even lies that have damaged relationships; or the dull routine that seems more like just staying alive rather than truly living. Some offer their struggles with addictions, or habits of anger or impatience or being hypercritical, or even their doubts and questions about a God who makes us wait, does not seem to answer questions, and sometimes simply says “no.”

All of these sacrifices and more are gathered up as the assembly says: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands.” Here is the heart of a eucharistic disciple: All our offerings of prayer, service, daily routines and remarkable moments are handed over with intentional trust as a sacrifice to God, our sacrificial gift of everything we are and experience as members of the body of Christ.

Coming to the Eucharist is a not a bracketed time of piety or prayerful refuge in an otherwise secular existence; it is the integral and natural breath of our Christian life. We gather to take in Jesus; we are sent by him to give out his love in everything the next hours and days hold, pleasant and difficult. My sacrifice and yours … what does it mean to you, today?

When Mother Teresa was canonized in 2016, one of the parishioners gave me a copy of a small card she had received from Mother Teresa in 1992, when this woman was dealing with some serious health issues. The card encouraged her to pray for Mary’s intercession, and then Mother Teresa wrote: “She will help you to recover if it is God’s will for you, or else obtain for you the grace to take what He gives and give what He takes, with a smile. For this is real holiness.”

After she died, the world came to know that other than a five-week respite in 1959, Mother Teresa experienced literally decades of emptiness in her own prayer life. Her spiritual life seemed frozen in that moment of Good Friday when Jesus cried out from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Like Jesus, her solidarity with the suffering around her united her so completely to the cross that her sacrifice is beyond our comprehension. What God took from her was a sense of his presence in prayer, though she never gave up that search; what he gave her was a heart so deeply touched by suffering that charity flowed out from her spiritual wounds, just as it did from Jesus at Calvary. And, all this, she accepted with a smile — not a grim or ironic surrender, but the unshaken conviction that God’s will leads unfailingly to happiness in the end, even if it is an end we cannot see.

Find some quiet time and place this week, even for a few minutes, and ask for St. Teresa of Kolkata’s intercession to say: “Jesus, give me the grace to take what you give, and to give what you take, with a smile: my sacrifice, and yours.”

Father Tom Knoblachis pastor of Sacred Heart in Sauk Rapids and Annunciation in Mayhew Lake. He also serves as consultant for health care ethics for the Diocese of St. Cloud.


Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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