Our Sacrifice and Almsgiving
by Dc. Byron Newton
Did you know that there are five Precepts of the Catholic Church? These five precepts can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraphs CCC 2041-2043. These precepts are obligatory upon all of the faithful and are “meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor” (CCC 2041). I am only going to focus on the fifth of these precepts, but I would encourage you to open up the Catechism and reflect on the other four as well. The Fifth Precept is “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church” (CCC 2043). This means that the Church asks us, each according to our ability or means, to provide for these needs by giving of our time, talent, and treasure. One of the things that the faithful provide, by the money given to the Church, is the bread and wine that is consecrated at every Mass and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Have you ever been stopped by an usher as you and your family are walking into Mass and asked if you would participate in the Mass by carrying the gifts to the front of the altar? During Mass on Sunday the bread and wine that will be offered during the Mass are brought forward by members of the community, along with the proceeds of the collection and the needs of our parishioners written in the parish book of prayers. This action during the Mass is commonly called the “The Offertory,” as the bread and the wine brought forth will be the matter that is offered during the Liturgy of the Eucharist and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. We don’t often think about the history and theological significance of this action during the Mass, but it is important to understand and reflect how we are called to participate in the liturgy and the life of the Church.
Paragraph 73 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal notes concerning the offertory that: “It is a praiseworthy practice for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful. Even though the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as once was the case, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still keeps it spiritual efficacy and significance.” In the days of the early Church, the people would bring the bread and wine from home and present it as an offering for the sacrifice of the Mass. This act of bringing the matter for the sacrifice has its roots in the temple worship found in the Old Testament. The people participated in the sacrifice by bringing, from their own possessions, the livestock that would be sacrificed to God by the priests of the temple. In the same way, part of our participation in the sacrifice is by providing for the bread and the wine, which is bought through our donations to the Church.
Right before the Eucharistic Prayer, the Priest says; “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to the almighty Father” (The Roman Missal, The Order of Mass, 29). The Church calls us all to actively participate in the sacrifice of the Mass; we do this through our prayers and participation in the liturgy. But also, by sacrificially giving our time, talent, and treasure. Our contributions not only provide for the bread and wine, but the vestments worn by Priests, Deacons, and altar servers, the liturgical books, the music, the air conditioning during these hot summer days, the lights, etc. By our time and talent, we ensure there are enough volunteers for serving as ministry leaders, catechists, sacristans, altar servers, readers, etc. My brothers and sisters, take some time this week to reflect and pray on this fifth precept of the Church and how God is calling you to fulfil this obligation to
provide for the needs of the Church.
Yours in Christ,
Dc. Byron Newton