A few years ago, I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,
And I had the awesome privilege of walking the streets of Jerusalem
along the real, original Way of the Cross;
And I was able to be at the place of the Last Supper,
and the Garden of Gethsemane and Golgotha, and the empty tomb.
I was with other priests, and we had Mass – at Calvary! Right there!
Now, because it is God’s work and not merely a human work,
The Mass is the Mass is the Mass, wherever and whenever.
Every single Mass brings us to Calvary – every single one.
Nevertheless, when you and I come to this evening, this time of year,
if we realize what we’re doing, there is something electric about it.
All of Lent has been a journey to this moment.
We have prayed, fasted and shared our blessings with others,
so that we, like the Apostles,
can prepare to celebrate the Passover with the Lord.
Normally the Passover was celebrated as a family event;
instead, Jesus was keeping the Passover with these chosen men.
No one else was present.
The Passover, remember, was first celebrated in Egypt.
God’s People were slaves; and on the night of the Passover,
God executed judgment against Egypt, and Israel left in haste.
But in order to understand fully the Sacrifice of the Mass,
it helps to recall what happens when God brings his People to Mt. Sinai.
There, God instructs Moses not only in the Ten Commandments,
but also in all the details of how they are to worship God;
how the place of worship is to be arranged,
how the altar is to be constructed,
and how the sacrifices are to be offered.
After all this, Moses leads the elders of Israel up Sinai,
to ratify the covenant. And the Scripture says,
“They saw God, and they ate and drank” the sacrifice.
Think about that in relation to the Last Supper – and the Mass:
“They saw God and they ate and drank.”
Did you ever wonder why the altar is traditionally elevated?
As at Sinai, we go up to see God.
In a few minutes, I will go up this altar, and as your priest –
on your behalf – I will address our
“Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God” – the God of Sinai.
And when we sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy,”
we are joining host of angels adoring Almighty God!
The same angels who saw Calvary happen with amazement.
When some of us were kids, there was a TV show,
“You are there,” and it took you back to some moment in the past.
But this is way beyond any TV show.
You and I, brothers and sisters, we are there!
At Calvary, and also, in heaven – all at once.
So before offering the sacrifice, the priest acknowledges
the Virgin Mary, the Queen Mother.
Traditionally, the priest bows his head to the left toward Mary;
and then forward, toward Christ.
The priest then says, “Graciously accept this oblation” –
what is an oblation?
An oblation is an offering of food and wine, from the people to God.
It stands for you. You, and your prayers, works, joys and sufferings,
go to the altar in that bread and wine.
The priest extends his hands like this.
That is meant to suggest a dove – that is, the Holy Spirit.
In the Old Testament, God’s Fire would come down upon the sacrifice.
On the Day of Pentecost, God’s Fire came down upon the Church.
In the Mass, it is the Holy Spirit that makes our human offerings
“become for us the Body and Blood of [the] beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”
The priest then recalls the words of Jesus at the Last Supper.
And what becomes so clear when the priest and the people
face the same way,
is that every word of this prayer is addressed to God.
Yes, at the Last Supper, Jesus spoke these words to the Apostles.
But the next day, on the Cross,
he actually offers his Body and Blood to the Father.
His Body is broken; his blood is poured out.
At the Last Supper, Jesus’ disciples would not have been surprised
had the Lord pointed to the body of the lamb – on the table –
to talk about covenant and sacrifice.
But then Jesus took up, not the flesh of the lamb,
But rather, the bread and the wine, and said:
This is my Body, given for you, this is my Blood,
of the new and eternal covenant – eat and drink!
This was new. No one had ever done that before.
Then on Calvary, on the Cross, he completes the sacrifice.
He takes a last sip of wine, offered on a sponge and says, “
It is finished.”
And after the Resurrection, he showed himself alive,
that’s when the Apostles understood; and our Holy Mass is the result.
We do this sacrifice, as he commanded, in memory of Him.
Notice the priest lifts up the Body, and then the Blood.
While this allows you to adore the Lord, that is not the primary reason.
Rather, the Body and Blood are lifted up to the Father.
This is a Sacrifice: Christ offered himself to the Father.
The priest offers Christ – and us – to the Father.
Also, the separation of body and blood – recalls his death.
When the priest later puts a part of the Sacred Host into the chalice,
That signifies Christ’s Body and Blood being “together” –
pointing to his Resurrection.
There’s one more detail worth reflecting on.
When this happens, the priest sings, “Mystery of Faith.”
The origin of this part of the prayer is unclear, but –
It’s kind of like a big, flashing sign that says,
“This, this – right here, this! This is the moment!
This is the mystery; this is pulsing heart of the whole thing!”
After this the priest begs the Father
to accept this “pure victim, this holy victim.”
Of course the Father will accept this Sacrifice;
and yet this summarizes the whole drama of salvation.
Without Jesus, none of us can be saved.
Everything in the Old Testament led to this.
This moment – I mean, tonight; and I mean, the Mass;
and, the moment when Jesus once offered himself;
and, that moment is made present for us here at this Mass –
This moment is the pivot point of all history.
There are so many people who long to be here, but cannot;
Many watch over the Internet.
How sad that there are others who don’t realize what the Mass is.
Tonight, you and I are there in Jerusalem.
We are there at the Cross.
The Blood of the Lamb protects us.
The flesh of the Lamb is our salvation.