This week we Lectio the Liturgy with the Prayer over the Offerings for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
O God, who in the one perfect sacrifice brought to completion varied offerings of the law, accept, we pray, this sacrifice from your faithful servants and make it holy, as you blessed the gifts of Abel, so that what each has offered to the honor of your majesty may benefit the salvation of all. Through Christ our Lord.
With the words, “brought to completion,” the prayer ties the Old Testament with the New. Brought to completion means fulfilled. The sacrifices in the Old Testament foreshadow the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. He was the sacrifice and the cross was the altar. He not only completed the old, he brought the old to its fullest expression.
In the prayer we ask that God equally, accept and make holy, our offerings as He blessed the gifts of Abel. In the Latin form of the prayer, the wording is a bit different. We find the word “sicut” which asks God to bless our offerings with the same blessing as He gave the gifts of Abel.
In Genesis 4, we don’t find any words of blessing, other than God “looked with favor” or had respect for Abel’s gift. Abel chose the fattest of the firstborn lambs. St. John Chrysostom wrote that when God took notice of Abel and his gifts, He approved of Abel’s attitude, rewarded the choice, and was satisfied with what Abel had done. How I pray that all my gifts are regarded as such.
For days I’ve been thinking about the “so that” phrase, what I call the “accrue” part of this prayer. The phrase that begins with the words “so that” is a dependent phrase, it is something that cannot be attained on its own. Our offering cannot benefit the salvation of all unless it is accepted and made holy.
Other than the Eucharistic offerings of bread and wine, we each have an offering to make as well. Abel not only gave God a lamb, but he gave with a pure intention.
However, there is one more thing about our offering. It is intended to benefit the salvation of all.
I have heard the plea often, “We need to pray for the Church,” and that is true, we do need to pray for the Church - a lot. We desire a holy and a strong Church, however, a holy Church doesn’t just fall out of heaven. Christ’s Church is sitting in the pews. The best way to be a benefit for the salvation of all is to become holy ourselves.
Which brings us back to our own sacrifice. Abel grew in holiness when he gave God an offering that not only had monetary value, it was given in love and with a pure heart. If you remember the story, you know that Abel’s brother, Cain, gave a sacrifice of grain. Scripture doesn’t tell us many details, other than it wasn’t all about just the offering. Cain gave out of duty and not out of love.
What will you give God? Will you give him your best with all your heart or will you give him something that is just good enough? Perhaps your best offering to God is your worst flaw, that deep dark wound or an addiction. An offering given to the honor of his Majesty will benefit salvation for all of us, and the Church becomes the Body of Christ that it was meant to be.
Thanks for praying with me,