The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. “Sacramental grace” is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior. ccc 1129
When the Father’s of Mercy were here last week for our parish mission, Father Joseph asked us what we offer when the Priest speaks the words, “pray brethren that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the almighty father”? I pondered this question for awhile, because though I do make an offering of myself at this point in my life and have for several years, there was a time I offered nothing. There was a time I did not pay attention to the words. There was a time I didn’t understand how God seeks our cooperation in His Sacrifice. True love is self-sacrificing, and Christ asks us to partake in this as part of His Mystical Body. When we do, sacramental grace pours over us, so that in offering ourselves in the sacrifice, God can lift us higher, for we know we cannot do it on our own. Our being lifted higher, partaking in Divine Nature, spreads outward to the rest of the world. This happens when we receive in a state of grace and when we recognize that we are not the center of everything, God is. With God nothing is impossible.
And in realizing what was happening when we do this, how that sacramental grace flows from Christ to each believer and how it then flows out from the believer to the rest of the world, I felt a profound joy and a profound sadness.
I felt joy because I realized how God can extend His grace to those who need it most, by His sacrifice and ours…. Our sacrifice united to Christ, in and through the sacraments, can be applied to our loved ones, and even to our enemies, in order that they might be saved. And all of it is done through the Pascal Mystery, through the Sacraments. I can place my fallen away loved ones in that chalice with me and sacrifice, for them. Christ already did it for them, our cooperation in that makes the sacramental grace flow. Everything flows through the sacraments. The light shines in the darkness.
And then I became profoundly sad because I realized that when our guardian angels approach the altar with what we have to offer as our sacrifice, many of them go forward with empty hands. I know mine did for a period of time. Not only does this put our own souls in jeopardy, but it cuts off the sacramental grace that could flow from us to others. And we wonder why the world is in the state that it is in.
We have spent so much time wondering what we can “get” out of Mass, missing the grace we receive, and offering nothing to give. It’s the tragedy of our time. When we sacrifice with Christ, when His divine nature fills us, our relationships with others are healed, creation operates in harmony, and souls are saved. We are so far away from this.
The Saints did have an understanding of this. Saint Therese of Lisieux, before she ever became a nun, prayed and offered sacrifice for Henri Pranzini, a murderer that all of France hated. Before he walked to the guillotine, he kissed the wounds of Christ on the Crucifix. It could be that the only place Henri Pranzini received the sacramental grace that could save him were through the prayers and sacrifice of Saint Therese of Lisieux united to Christ. How many souls did she offer for? How many repented before their particular judgement because of her offerings? Christ is the one mediator, and we are His Mystical Body. Would that we all pray and sacrifice like Saint Therese.
We are at a point in time where I do think it will take an illumination of conscience for mankind to understand all that we have lost by our lack of sacrifice with Christ. Today, October 3 in 1847, the people in Mexico experienced an illumination. It took place one day after a major earthquake in Ocotlán, Mexico. The city was destroyed and 40 people died. The parish church was destroyed. They held a Mass outside the day following the earthquake. An apparition of Christ crucified appeared in the sky for approximately 30 minutes witnessed by 2000 people. People cried out in contrition for their sins. It became known as the “miracle of Octolán”, and it serves as a reminder to purify your conscience with the sacraments, from which the grace flows.
We must stay on the path of purification and learn to offer sacrifice, even and especially when we don’t feel like it. The next time you go to Mass, think long and hard about the offering you will hand to your angel to carry to the altar, it just may help someone get to heaven.