Friday, July 20, 2012

Blog # 257 The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

Blog # 257   The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

Blog # 256 ended with a promise  of  another blog that would share a few further insights focusing  upon the identity of the Mass as an act of sacrifice.  Blog # 256 was originally published over a week ago.  I can  hardly believe this but after that, on three different occasions, I actually composed a text for  Blog # 257 and on  all three occasions somehow or other I must have pressed a wrong key and lost  the texts that I had composed, just before the words I intended to be the conclusion of the  Blog !   I felt like letting the whole thing drop and get on to something else but then decided to give it one more try, so here I am at the beginning of Blog # 257 with hope it will come out OK.

The blog  started out with a reference to what I had encountered in my experience of conversations with  many of our typical non-Catholic fellow Christian believers as a serious flaw in the Church's presentation of the Gospel message. It is the universal Catholic practice of referring to an ordained minister as "Father".  The practice is judged as wrong based upon an inaccurate interpretation of a few Biblical passages and at its worst is seen as an arrogant and haughty contradiction of the entire message of the Bible as an assumption on the part of a man of a title and identity that belongs to God alone.  This is not true of course, but for anyone who thinks it is true it can be a definitive obstacle for that person in considering seriously the claims of the Catholic Church that are actually true.

  There is one such claim based upon a distinctive Catholic practice that to my surprise does not seem to be offensive to our non-Catholic friends.  It is the practice of identifying ordained ministers as  priests. There is an apparent  parallel in our Catholic practice of referring to a man as  Father  seen  by some of our  non-Catholic friends as an assumption of an identity and title on the part of  a mere human creature that belongs to God  alone, and  in our Catholic practice  of referring to a man as priest  if this is seen as an assumption of an identity and title on the part of a mere human creature that belongs to Jesus alone as the sole Redeemer of the entire human race and the sole fulfillment of the promise made to Adam and Eve that a Redeemer would come who would atone for sin.

An essential difference in these two Catholic practices lies in the fact our reference to ordained ministers as Father is not an assumption of the sole identity and title we profess in reference to our sole Creator, but rather a reminder  and proclamation of our  heavenly Fathers love,  whereas the reference to an ordained priest is proclaimed by us as giving the ordained person a new real supernatural identity AS SHARING THE IDENTITY OF JESUS THE PRIEST.  As in the case of calling a man Father, this practice is not a contradiction of or in  competition with  the identity and title of Jesus as Redeemer. Rather in God's design and with  God's authority it identifies and proclaims such a close union with Jesus and the ordained human priest we see at the altar during Mass, that the ordained priest  not just guides a worshipping community in memory of what Jesus said and did  at the Last Supper, quoting Jesus as it were: "Jesus said   This is My Body...", but actually takes the offered bread in his human hands and proclaims "This is My Body...",  referring now to the Sacramental Body of Jesus. Our Catholic practice  also recognizes the ordained priest  as officially identified and authorized in union with Jesus to represent the people offering the sacrifice of  the Mass, one of the conditions required in the definition of an official act of sacrifice. 

Underlying all that  I have been saying about Calvary, the Last Supper, and the Mass is the identity of Jesus as priest and the experiences of Calvary, the Last Supper, and the Mass as experiences of  sacrifice,  with Jesus exercising the role of priest in all three experiences.  The unconditional trust and total love that is expressed in sacrifice is referred to as worship.   The definition of sacrifice is: an offering to God alone by an official representative of the people of some material gift, with the change or destruction of what is offered in recognition of God's supreme dominion and our complete dependence upon God.

We know by faith  it was God's design and plan from the very first sin that was ever committed down to the last,  that Jesus  was is and will be the fulfillment of the Father's promise to Adam and Eve in the third Chapter of Genesis.  Jesus is the sole redeemer and His the only name in whom sins are forgiven and the love of God is restored to the sinful soul.  That is solid secure Catholic theology. 

Sin is a turning away from God, a separation from God, a betrayal  of God's love.  Love that is lost by sin is restored by the love of Jesus.  Since Jesus the Man and the Eternal Word of God are two names for a single person ,  anything  Jesus  said or did could be of infinite value before the Father and thus sufficient to atone for any and all sin. Yet, since there is no greater love a man can have than to lay down his life in love for another, it was most fitting that Jesus should  lay down His life, once on Calvary and again at the Last Supper, and again and again  and again, all around the world, every day until the end of the world in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that sinners need not be afraid of God but rather come to Him and receive the gift of forgiveness and a new love through the sacrificial worship of  Jesus the Redeemer of all who are redeemed.

Some of this fundamental Catholic theology may seem strange and unfamiliar even to Catholics who are regular church-goers Sunday after Sunday.  The music, the preaching, and the prayers we pray may be enough for them to satisfy their intention and desire to praise and thank God for His goodness to us and His merciful forgiveness in and though Jesus His Son.  But if this, wonderful as it is, be so, they are missing the  essence of what is going on before them at the altar during Mass.

This blog has grown long and heavy so I will end it here and hope to continue tomorrow with a few more insights.   Thank You, Father!  Thank You Jesus!

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