by Michael Podrebarac
We recognize, of course, that the Eucharist involves sacrifice.
It is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, which he makes present for his church through the action of the priest, that the church may offer his perfect sacrifice to the Father, its members joining their own sacrifices to it as well.
All of the other sacraments are connected to the Eucharist. This means each has an element of sacrifice within it. The heart of the Christian life lies in sacrifice.
In baptism, we sacrifice our independence from God, as we become his adopted children through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In confirmation, we sacrifice our own wills, to be guided instead by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In the anointing of the sick, we offer our own bodies, asking that God will heal us, but praying especially that he join our sufferings to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.
In holy orders, a man sacrifices his industry, and even his own person, to be configured to Jesus Christ, who, through the ordained minister, governs, sanctifies and serves his people, the church.
In holy matrimony, a man and a woman both sacrifice their lives for one another, for the sake of their mutual happiness as well as their salvation. As parents, they sacrifice themselves in order to provide for their children.
And then there is the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. How exactly is this sacrament an actual sacrifice?
Well, consider the simple fact that it is not possible for us to compartmentalize our lives, leaving God out of some parts, keeping them only for ourselves. We so often try to isolate from God that reality of our lives which is sin. We try to quarantine our sin, even as we sincerely seek to serve God, as if there is a part of us we can keep cordonedoff from him.
But God wants us completely, every part of us. We know that there is mercy and forgiveness for those who confess their faults before the Lord, but we still try to hang on to our disorders. We like to think that as long as we’re scoring at least 90 percent in the grace department, we are still getting an A. But it simply doesn’t work that way. Even 99-percent obedience is still disobedience, and God wants our complete obedience.
So when we go to confession, we are asked to offer a sacrifice. We are led to say to God, reflecting on how unhappy our sins make us, “Here, Lord, you take this. I really can’t handle it, and I really don’t want it anymore. I offer it to you.”
And he gladly takes it from us, and leaves in its place, an abundance of grace.