This week we Lectio the Liturgy with the Prayer Over the Offerings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter. The prayer tells us plenty of what the Holy Spirit does, but it also tells us three things that we must do to conform to be more like Christ.
May our prayers rise up to you, O Lord, together with the sacrificial offerings, so that, purified by your graciousness, we may be conformed to the mysteries of your mighty love. Through Christ our Lord.
In this prayer, we ask God that our prayers, “together with”, or united, with the sacrificial offerings, rise to Him to make us purified.
The act of uniting our offerings with the Blood of Christ is found in Hebrews 9:11-22 where we read that the blood of goats and bulls can sanctify those who are defiled so their flesh is cleansed. In the new covenant, it is the blood of Christ that cleanses our soul. Many of our popular prayers invoke the Precious Blood of Jesus for our sanctification and protection. One can only imagine what happens when we unite our weaknesses with Christ’s power.
The graciousness that purifies is the Holy Spirit. St. John Paul II wrote, “He [the Holy Spirit] makes us aware of sin, but at the same time it is he himself who forgives sin.” It is through this sanctification that we are conformed to the mysteries of God’s mighty love.
I was fascinated to discover that “love” doesn’t mean what I thought it would. In the Latin form of the prayer, we find the word pietatis and it means devotion, faithfulness to natural ties. It refers to the love and devotion between a parent and child. Our prayer is that we are conformed to this love as children of God, becoming more like Jesus.
You may already know that I love the conjunction “so that” because it tells me that what it points to is something that is dependent, something we can’t get on our own, it relies on something. In this prayer, to be conformed to the mysteries of God’s mighty love, is something not attainable without the help of something else. To be conformed, we must purified by offering our prayers which have been united with the sacrificial offerings.
For an example of using this prayer for our personal spiritual growth, let’s use the example of selfishness. Let’s say you’ve noticed that selfishness has crept into your life. This is one trait that is not Christ-like. You should take it to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you should repent of it, but notice what happens when we unite our selfishness to the sacrificial offerings at Mass.
The process looks like this: 1) We ask God to receive our prayer, 2) along with the bread and wine on the altar, we offer our selfishness, 3) what we receive back is not only the Body and Blood our our Lord, it is a new, holier version of ourself. Our challenge now is to receive the new life we’ve been given, to not go back to our old ways, and to let God have his way in us.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to purify us and conform us. Our job is to 1) ask God to receive our prayers, 2) raise our prayers sacrifices (that include not only ourselves, but our weaknesses and faults) to God, and 3) be willing to be conformed and to receive whatever God wants to give and what He wants to give is nothing less than making us more like His Son.
A powerful opportunity to offer these prayers is at the time this prayer is prayed, the Prayer Over the Offerings. When the bread and wine and our prayers are offered to God during the Eucharistic prayer, take a quick glance around the Church. The congregation is kneeling before God. Heaven is all around, and the priest, in the person of Christ, stands as the mediator between heaven and earth. He calls down the Holy Spirit to make these gifts holy. This is a mystery, an act of faith, and it is a gift of love from the Father. If we truly believe in the Power of the Holy Spirit, we are new creatures, becoming more and more conformed to Christ.
Thanks for praying with me,