Thursday, 26 April 2012

Holy Sacrifice - what does it mean?

In their latest newsletter invite us to reflect:

In a recent professional poll held in Ireland 77% of the people surveyed thought that women should be ordained. ( Also in the poll they surveyed people’s opinion about the new translation of the Mass that has been imposed upon the English speaking world. 1 in 2 Catholics who have heard the new wording prefer the previous version; with 33% finding the new Missal more difficult to understand and 43% are unfavourable towards the changes. One of the main stumbling blocks for many people is the emphasis that the new Mass places upon the notion of the “Sacrifice of the Mass”.

When I was a youngster the description I always heard for the Eucharist was “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” This was boldly printed on the missal that I used and if ever I looked at a Mass card it always said “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is being offered for.....” The whole notion that I grew up with was that “Man and Woman” had sinned against God’s goodness and because we had fallen short of perfection, no man or woman could make satisfaction to God. Only God become Man could make satisfaction, that is, make up to God for the sin of men and women. Only by shedding his blood upon the cross could the Son of God make up for people’s sin.

Now again it seems that the emphasis upon blood and sacrifice points to a cruel God who demands satisfaction through the death of his Son. God is presented as one who refuses to forgive human sin without full reparation being paid. The impression given is that it must be the Father’s will that Jesus should suffer and die and thus make satisfaction for our sins. How much better was the notion that we had of the Sacrifice of love and faithfulness. We believe in a God who so loved the world that he sent his own Son into the World. The obedience of Jesus was to bring a message of love and reveal a God who was “Father”

The mission of Jesus was to bring the light of God’s love to the world. He was faithful to this mission and that is what the Father wanted, that Jesus be faithful to his mission. The choice to be faithful was a free choice by Jesus. “The Father loves me because I am willing to give up my life” (John 10.17). We can therefore say that the Father did not want Jesus’ death in itself, but as a consequence of his faithfulness and because of the opposition of those who should have welcomed him. Jesus died because those in authority were not willing to listen or change and they held on their power and abused it.

We can therefore say that the “sacrifice” of Jesus was one of love and faithfulness. He died upon the cross and made the ultimate sacrifice because he loved the Father and he loved us. The Father did not desire and seek a bloody sacrifice to make reparation to his hurt pride. The Father as revealed by Jesus is the Father who willingly forgives and welcomes home the prodigal son.

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