it is important to point out the prayer of intercession by the Canaanite woman to Jesus for her daughter who was tormented by a demon. Jesus seems to ignore her, but through her steadfast prayer of intercession to him and her obedience, she wins her daughter‟s freedom by her deepening faith in Christ; for Jesus Christ is that perfect priest and intercessor for all of us to the Father, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
From the writings of Saint Irenaeus (130-202 AD), a Catholic Bishop who ministered in Gaul, present day, Lyon, France:
“That they might be saved, God demanded of these men of old not sacrifices and holocausts, but faith, obedience and righteousness. God expressed his will when he taught them in the words of Hosea: I desire mercy more than sacrifices, the knowledge of God more than holocausts. Our Lord‟s warning to them was the same: If you had known what was meant by the words “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would never have condemned the guiltless. He bore witness that the prophets had spoken the truth; he also brought home to his listeners the folly of their own sin.
Moreover, he instructed his disciples to offer to God the firstfruits of creation, not because God had any need, but so that they themselves should not be unproductive and ungrateful. This is why he took bread, a part of his creation, gave thanks and said: This is my body. In the same way he declared that the cup, an element of the same creation as ourselves, was his blood; he taught them that this was the new sacrifice of the new covenant.
The Church has received this sacrifice from the apostles; throughout the world she offers to God, who feeds us, the first fruits of his own gifts, under the new covenant. It was fore-told by Malachi, one of the twelve prophets, in the words: I take no pleasure in you, says the Lord Almighty, and no sacrifice will I accept from your hands. For, from the rising of the sun to its setting, the Gentiles glorify my name, and in every place incense and a spotless sacrifice are offered in my name; my name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord Almighty.
But what name is glorified among the Gentiles if not that of our Lord, through whom glory is given both to the Father and to man. And since this name belongs to his own Son, who be-came man by the Father‟s will, the Father calls this name his own. If a king were to paint a picture of his son, he could claim it as his own on two counts: because it is his son‟s picture, and because he himself made it. In the same way, the Father declares that the name of Jesus Christ, which is glorified in the Church throughout the world, is his own, because it is his Son‟s name and because he wrote it to save mankind.
And so, since the Son‟s name belongs to the father and since the Church makes its offerings through Jesus Christ to almighty God, for these two reasons the prophet is right when he says: In every place incense and a pure sacrifice are offered to my name. In the book of Revelation, John speaks of incense as “the prayer of the saints.”
What a beautiful testimony to our Catholic Christian faith, not only by Saint Irenaeus, but also by the Jewish prophet, Malachi, who prophesied around the year 455 B.C. He warned the Old Testament priests and people to truly honor God by making worthy sacrifices and not seeing worship as a burden, but rather as a way to draw down God‟s blessings and protection against the evil spirits and the enemies of God‟s peo-ple.
“A son honors his father, and a servant fears his master; If then I am a father, where is the honor due to me? And if I am a master, where is the reverence due to me? – So says the Lord
of hosts… But you ask, “How have we despised your name?” By offering polluted food on my al-tar!...When you offer a blind animal for sacrifice is this not evil? When you offer the lame or the sick, is it not evil? I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts;… But you behave profanely toward me by thinking the Lord‟s table and its offering may be polluted, and its food slighted. You also say, “What a burden!”” Cf. Malachi, 1:6-
That is quite an indictment against the Old Testament priests and people who were called to offer their first and their best to God. Imagine if we offered sacrifice like that today? Take your best bull, cow, pig, sheep, or buy the best of these sacrificial animals, and hand it over to the Lord‟s minister for a holocaust. It sounds crazy, but it gives witness that you have faith in God who is the most important person in your life, and that the Lord God has given you every good gift and that you trust that he will provide for you and your children, first and foremost his grace and blessings – a living relationship and protection against evil spirits and the sinful world.
This hearkens back to Cain and Abel when they both offered sacrifice, but Abel and his sacrifice was pleasing to God, whereas Cain‟s sacrifice was only good, but not accepted as pleasing. Why? Cain offered fruits from the earth, while Abel, “for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not.” Gen. 4:4-5 We are called to offer our best and our first by tithing our time, talent and treasure in the holy name of Jesus Christ for the glory of God and the salvation of all, especially our family members.
The Prophet Malachi continues by prophesying the future with regard to the perfect offering of Jesus Christ in the Holy Mass: “For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations (gentiles); And everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering; For great is my name among the nations (gentiles), says the Lord of hosts.”
Jesus Christ is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” (Jn 1:29) who says of himself, “„I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.‟” Jn 6:51 Jesus Christ is the perfect priest and purest sacrifice and on the night before offering his life upon the cross, “Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, „Take and eat; this is my body.‟ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, „Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.‟” Mt. 26:26-28
For these reasons, and more, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the highest and greatest prayer of praise, adoration, thanksgiving, reparation and intercession, because it is done through Christ, with Christ and in Christ. I thank God that all of us are coming to understand this more deeply in our spiritual walk toward heaven, and that we continue to intercede for those in need.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe