Yesterday I heard an impassioned homily that ran the gamut from worry to the economy to student newspapers to the military to Libya, but which was held together by the thread of a deeply prophetic tone and a desire to bring what is hidden to light. I won’t try to paraphrase it – there’s no way I could – but I pulled out one idea: we have lost a sense of sharing sacrifice. We let the burden be borne by the unemployed, the homeless, the foreigner and the poor, and then are very relieved that they are not us.
This insight was made most clear with the example of our current wars, being fought, as the presider put it, by a military, not a nation. I thought about that as our liturgy continued. We sped through the creed, intercessions and preparation, and as we entered the Eucharistic Prayer I got into my usual spot that allows me to conduct the choir, be reverent, and stay out of the way. To be honest, I was already thinking about the Memorial Acclamation when I heard the phrase I’ve been thinking about for the last twenty-four hours: This is my body which will be given up for you.
Sacrifice. None of us wants to do it, least of all me. I want to hoard up my security in a defense against pain. I want to be invulnerable, and every day when I pray that I may learn “to give and not to count the cost” a part of my heart holds back, praying instead that there will be no cost.
But the sacrifice is there. We participate in it at the altar. It was proclaimed again and again by the Christ who so many of us claim to follow, who offered himself up as a sacrifice we don’t deserve. And still we take it upon ourselves to give others what we think they deserve. We make excuses for creating underclasses of Them, and some of those excuses are pretty convincing, even to me. But in the end there is no Them, just Us, unwilling to sacrifice yet still beneficiaries of God’s sacrifice and love.