Why Christian sacrifice is a good thing (Ord 16B)

Singing has been a part of Christianity from the very beginning: we sing because God is good, because he is so good to us, and because we choose to rejoice.  This is why we have the song at the start of mass: like a boyfriend excited to see his fiancee, we sing. But the song at the start of the mass is actually a very new invention.  There is a far more ancient way of singing into the beginning of mass: it is called the Introit.  The English word introit comes from the Latin word introitus meaning entrance.  The monks would chant it as they entered into the church and the liturgy.  And it is still there! And what is amazing about this introit is that it matches very well what we are doing today: it gives us the basic introduction to Christianity.  See, I have God for my help.  The Lord sustains my soul. I will sacrifice to you with willing heart,  and praise your name, O Lord, for it is good.

What is interesting is what this psalm doesn’t say.  It does not first say I will sacrifice to you with willing heart…this is very important when it comes to our idea of God.  Do you have problems with God? Any problem we have with God is first of all because we don’t know him as he really is actually but rather believe something about him that’s not true.  God’s first words to us are not come to my armchair and sacrifice yourself for me.  What are his first words to us?  See, I have God for my help.  The Lord sustains my soul. Then, and only then, do I make sacrifice to him.

So number one about Christianity: Christianity is not first of all about me having to do stuff.  Christianity is first of all the act of God serving me and loving me. This is the whole point of the liturgy: this is what happens at mass.  God comes to meet us first, to scoop us up and save us. Yeah ok, father, but the text says I can see what God does for me.  Yeah, well that is the point of Christmas.  And Easter. And the whole of Jesus’ life on earth.  The whole reason God becomes man is so that we can see him, and hear him, and touch him.  That’s what his life was about. No other religion does that. God comes so close to us that he becomes one of us.  

This is also the point of the sacraments.  The Lord sustains my soul.  That’s what happens in the sacraments.  He frees me from evil in confession, strengthens me in the anointing of the sick.  He gives me bread from heaven – bread from heaven! Where else do you get bread from heaven?  Only the Church, Jesus own Body, offers us this. So you see – the bible is not just words: it is God’s promises which come true.

Then, after having received everything good we need and want, God asks for something in return.  Does that mean we have to pay God for good things? No. God still gives to us even when we ignore him.  But we don’t receive many of those things because our heart is closed to Him. This is the point of the sacrifice.  Sacrifice is the act of opening our heart and giving something of it to the other. It’s what we are made for because we are made for love, and this is what love is.  Sacrificing ourselves to God is to give ourselves totally to God. But this is no problem: firstly because we are made for that; secondly, because he did it himself, as we see and touch and taste at every Mass; and thirdly because, in giving ourself to God, we lose only bad things, and gain only good.  So let us ask God for the freedom to sacrifice ourselves to him each day, to give himself to him with all our heart – as he gives himself to us. Amen.