Immersed in Christ: April 17, 2020
Friday in the Octave of Easter
What is the difference between the offering we put in the collection basket and the symbolic gesture of sending up a host that represents us to be placed on the altar?
For one, the money we give is not a symbol of our whole selves, but of our labor: of whatever we did to earn it. And it is not transformed into the body of Christ offered for the salvation of the world, but is simply a contribution to the particular ministries Jesus is doing through a parish: the members of his body on earth today gathered together as a recognized community and acting officially in the name of the Church.
More important: we assign to the collection only part of the money we are managing for God as his stewards. But the host stands for our whole selves. In sending it up to be placed on the altar we are giving all that we are.
That is why Peter says in Acts 4: 1-12, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” Jesus is not one aid to salvation among others, with devotion to him a contributing factor. Jesus is salvation. He and he alone is the “Bread of Life.” We don’t invest part of our resources to buy a part interest in Jesus. For Jesus we give all for All. And we express it by sending up a host that represents us to be placed on the altar and lose its existence. The bread ceases to exist as bread. It becomes the Body of Christ existing as God by God’s own act of existing. In a similar way, by Baptism we give up our human lives in order to rise out of the waters a “new creation,” existing still as human, but totally committed to living by the divine life of God. In Baptism we “lose our life to find it.” We give up our lives as isolated human individuals in order to share communally in the divine life of Jesus as members of his body. We are like grains of wheat that have given up being isolated grains in order to become one bread. Branches on the vine. The vine apart from whom we can “do nothing.” 1
That is why the Presentation of Gifts is such an intense moment of the Mass. In one symbolic gesture we are reaffirming and reliving our Baptism, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and our acceptance of communal, relational existence in the Church.
The Responsorial (Psalm 118) tells us Jesus was “the stone rejected by the builders” because the power structure of Israel — the priests, Sadducees, “rulers, elders, and scribes” — were not willing to die to the sense of control they had over their earthbound existence and “lose themselves” in the mystery of divine life “in Christ.” But for us he “has become the cornerstone.” In the Presentation of Gifts we are saying this.
John 21: 1-14: Jesus again previews Eucharist. Before feeding his disciples he calls them to “present” the fish they had caught. We present the “work of human hands” at the Presentation of Gifts and receive back the Bread of Life. Jesus makes human efforts bear divine fruit. The theme song of redemption!
Initiative: Enter into mystery at the Presentation of Gifts. Give all for All.