Rising from my seat, the words that flowed from the mouth of the priest could not but strike a nerve in my being. They were strong words that provoked deep reflection in me. In all my years of attending Mass, I had always heard those words, complied with the expected response and action, which they initiate, but it had never struck me as much as it did on this particular day. The words, “Pray brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the almighty Father” uttered by the priest had invited us to pray over the gifts brought to the sanctuary. Like an automated machine, I had with other worshippers, always blurted out the response,“May the Lord accept that sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for the good and good of all his Church,” without really giving a second thought to that which came out of my mouth and that of the presider.
Something must have been different on this day or was I just the person who all along had failed to immerse myself in the liturgy, for it felt like scales had fallen from my eyes, and I was launched into an alternate universe to enable me see things much more clearly. I had practically attended Mass every single day, but this revelation seemed to have escaped me every single occasion until this moment. Looking back at this said day I had given as my offertory a token I will rather prefer at this time to keep to myself that I may not end up blowing my trumpet unnecessarily, but a part of me rejoiced that I did not do badly on this fateful day.Interestingly, if memory serves me well, this was the day I think I gave my biggest token, for whatever reason I cannot remember.
Was God lurking in the corner all along for the day I would offer my biggest token before unleashing this sublime truth to me? Or was it just me again along? Was my disposition at previous Masses the reason for my ignorance and naivety all along? I cannot say. Back to that beautiful inviting statement, I began to ponder within me, what sacrifice the priest was referring to. Theinvitermade reference tohis own sacrifice and ours, which made me wonderif I had made any sacrifice of my own. A tiny voice in me replied in the affirmative, calling my attention to the token I had dropped in the box. Could this be the sacrifice of ours being referred to? If it was, then I was really elated that I had not done too badly in my token onthis day. It struck me then that if I was elated because I had not done badly on this day. My joy was short-lived as my mind soon went to the days on which had made shabby token.
I could not but bow my head a bit in guilt forthe times I had done badly. While thinking about this, something in me made me realize that the sacrifice being referred to is not all about the token, it is more. It is more for the token merely represents or is a symbol of all of my sacrifices and toils of the day, week, month, years. The sacrifice being talked about included my laboursand my works of charity to others. The sacrifice goes on to include my active participation at the Mass which should also have been full and conscious. Ticking these boxes in my head one after the other, I kept praying that all the sacrifices which I had made will truly find acceptance before God in heaven. I realized that I would have been doing myself a great disservice if the token I offered was nothing to write home about.
I would have been doing myself a disservice if I did not immerse myself in the sacrificial actions expected of me.I would be doing myself a great disservice, if my life outside of the Mass was not one of sacrifice lived for God and for others. Wrapping my head around all of these did not stop me from imagininghow ironic and stupidit will be for me to ask that my hard token which is in no way commiserate with the sacrifice I had made be acceptable to God. It will be like me requesting that my personal sacrifices of full and conscious participation be acceptable to God when I had practically not sacrificially participated in any form. Truly, in all of these, I realized that no amount of token put in the box could level up to the sacrifice made, but I can at least communicate that a worthy sacrifice has been made by me, and in turn pray with my full chest that the Lord accept these sacrifices from our hands and in turn bless us.
Still in my alternate universe, I wondered if the inviter offered the same sacrifice like will do on our side, after all, we never see him put any token in the box. No doubt, he made his own sacrifice or else, why talk or pray, “My sacrifice and yours”. What could he have sacrificed, if he had no token to put in? It flashed across my mind that the Presider had neither wife nor children, had no property or inheritance of his. He was literally the property of another. What a sacrifice I thought to me self. In the bid of processing this sacrifice of the priest, all he had given up, and all he was doing for and with the people of God, that tiny voice whispered again,informing me that the sacrifice was not just about the priest but the owner of the priest. The priest had made his sacrifice but his sacrifice was not greater than the sacrifice of the High priest who himself is the victim and the presider.
In the voice of the priest then, the High priest offers supplication to his Father to accept his sacrifice, the laying down of his life, for the sake of the people gathered. My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets and my mouth would have needed the assistance of another hand to close it, as I marveled at the beauty of the sacrifice and the action that had gone on all these while without my realization. Coming out of my alternate universe, the enlightenment I got within a twinkle of an eye was so enriching. I felt the pain of not knowing this all along, maybe my token would just have been different. I wished at this moment to go back and redo the giving of my tokens but again I recalled that I have other opportunities to do it better at other Eucharistic sacrifices, bearing in mind that the token encapsulated all of my toils and sacrifices. Interestingly, in a nutshell, the token that found its way into the box told the tale of the sacrifice that is really tripartite in nature. It is the sacrifice of my token, my toils and my participation or involvement. It is the sacrifice of the participant, presider and priest par excellence, God himself.
• Rev. Fr. Gabriel Fatoye is an Associate Priest of St. Pio Catholic Church, Archdiocese of Lagos.