The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this about offertory at Mass, “The presentation of the offerings at the altar…commits the Creator’s gifts into the hands of Christ who, in His sacrifice, brings to perfection all human attempts to offer sacrifices. From the very beginning, Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need. This custom of the collection, ever appropriate, is inspired by the example of Christ who became poor to make us rich” (CCC 1350 and 1351).
The offertory collection at Holy Mass is our invitation to imitate Jesus; to give the gift of our whole self without expecting anything in return. Unfortunately, today, I suspect the collection is just seen as a financial transaction with God.
But God doesn’t need our money; rather we have a need to give. Why? Because we were created in God’s image and likeness. Just as some family members may look, act or sound alike because of traits they inherited from their earthly parents, we too, have inherited the generosity trait from our Heavenly Father, the most generous giver of all.
When people go to a family member or friend’s house for a celebration, they often bring a gift — a bottle of wine or some food to share. Maybe they order out for pizza and share in the cost. But it’s not just the visible material things we bring, more importantly, it’s the invisible things we bring to the party like love, friendship, joy, hospitality, gratitude and generosity. The combination of visible and invisible gifts makes the gathering a celebration.
This is an interesting parallel to the Sunday celebration of Mass.
How come we are so eager to share with each other when invited to a party, but not so eager when invited to the Lord’s house for a celebration? At Mass, the bread and wine are already provided, how come many of us come empty-handed? Do we bring the gift of our whole self to share with God and each other? Do we bring our individual visible and invisible gifts to Mass?
In any good, loving relationship, trust is a key factor. Trust allows me to be myself, admit to my faults, not put on a false front, to be be held accountable, to hold others accountable and to share what is in my heart and on my mind. This is what our offertory is to God — a covenant relationship with Him based on love, not out of obligation.
Do you trust God will provide all that you need? If so, know that God may be using you as the answer to someone else’s prayer. You may be the key to someone starting a loving relationship with Him through your generous sharing of your visible and invisible gifts.
Some of us have lost our jobs. Some of us are still fortunate to have a job. Whatever our circumstance, we are all being called in this present moment into a loving relationship with God and each other. God will use our current situation for good but we have to do our part and make room for the Holy Spirit to operate in our hearts.
The Sunday collection, the offertory, is the gift of our whole self — the visible and the invisible.
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County. He can be reached at (314) 792-7215 or [email protected].