Greetings on this twenty-ninth week in Ordinary Time.
This week our worship, or perhaps I should say our scriptures, focus on the sacrificial nature of our Lord’s relationship with us. The Prophet Isaiah speaks about the savior as crushed in infirmity and “gives his life as an offering for sin…through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.” Is 53:10,11.
The Gospel of Mark continues to reveal the identity of our savior as a servant and slave of all…who gives his life as a ransom for many. This idea of the Lord as sacrificial is amazing to hear and absorb. Why does God Himself stand in for me, for my sins, and allow Himself to be sacrificed? It was difficult for the Apostles and it should still be difficult for us.
All this talk of sacrifice and being a servant to all reminded me of an experience I had with naming a new puppy. I never had a dog before and certainly not a puppy. My assignment as chaplain at West Point seemed a stable assignment and an opportunity to get a dog for the first time in my life. With this new puppy in hand I began to think about names for this creature. I recalled a name used by an older priest I knew many years before when I was a deacon. This old priest was from Ireland and spent over 40 years in the bush of Africa as a missionary. Whenever I helped him around the rectory he would inevitably call me a good “Gillie.” I never knew what it meant and never asked. That priest had a heavy Irish accent and since that unfamiliar word was always preceded with “good” I figured it was positive and good enough for me! One year later as I was leaving the parish I asked the priest what “Gillie” meant. The reply I received was an old Irish word for servant. So back to the puppy naming exercise. I was the ‘master’ and the new dog was the servant. It seemed logical to me. I named that puppy “Gillie.” Soon my novice dog experience became overwhelming due to the immense amount of time and care required by this puppy. After a couple weeks I realized who the real “Gillie” was in the relationship. So once again in my life I was a Gillie...a servant! My life became completely dedicated to every need of that creature.
The fullest expression of a sacrificial life is exactly what we are reminded of today. Our Lord gives himself totally for our sins as he hangs on that cross. I think the reference to Mass as the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” is the best reference for this act of worship. It is all about His sacrifice. In fact, the word sacrifice actually means to make holy. It is on the cross and in the Mass that our lives are saved despite our unworthiness due to sin.
It is great at this point to consider the other common reference to Mass — the Eucharist. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving. Can we possibly respond to the sacrifice of our Lord for us in any other way than in thanksgiving?
There is much here to consider. We can all benefit from time in prayer reflecting on our own sacrifices and our thanksgiving for all our Lord has done for us.
Along those lines I was so thankful to hear we were able to coordinate First Holy Communion for over 75 children this summer. As you know, we did all those a few at time… 1–3 each Mass. It was such a gift for us to witness those awesome moments.