As we began singing the hymn during the presentation of the gifts this morning, the usher passed the collection bowl down our pew. As always, we passed it to the next person without putting anything in it. Rather than write a check every week, we make our contribution once a month. Let me rephrase that – my wife, who manages our money, makes the contribution for the both of us once a month through an electronic fund transfer. I don’t have to do anything other than sing when it’s time (and, I’m sure, some folks wish I wouldn’t even do that!)
While I was singing, my mind drifted to that thought, “I don’t have to do anything.” Then, as the bread and wine were brought to the altar and the collection was placed at its base, I suddenly felt ashamed of myself. Although our monthly gift surely helps the parish and those in need, it’s given remotely and matter-of-factly. It’s just something we do every month. Perhaps my wife says a prayer of gratitude for the ability to contribute and a prayer for whoever may benefit from it when she clicks the button to make the EFT happen, but I don’t do anything.
I realized that I was missing something. At a minimum, I thought, I ought to consciously acknowledge our offering and pray that it helps someone. But, ideally, it’s more than that. The presentation of the gifts at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist is offering a gift to Jesus himself. And, it doesn’t matter whether I make a monthly electronic contribution or drop an envelope in the bowl each week, the gift He wants more than anything else is the gift of my heart offered willingly with love – the acknowledgement that I am giving myself to Him. A monetary contribution is nice, but hiding behind it without giving Him the gift He truly desires is like buying an expensive gift for your child’s birthday without showing up in person.
I realized that in giving myself to Him each time I attend mass, I am making a commitment to subordinate my will to His. Near the beginning of mass, during the Introductory Rites, I confess my venial sins and ask forgiveness in the Penitential Act. There is always something I can think of about which I regret doing or not doing. His forgiveness of these sins allows me to start anew. Thus, recommitting myself to Him and praying, “I am Yours, Lord”, after I am forgiven, time after time, day after day, seems only fitting.
I know that the next time I attend mass I will take to heart the meaning behind the presentation of the gifts. I will sing and I will watch the family who brings the gifts to the altar. But, I will also offer a prayer to Jesus that he accepts my gift, the gift of my heart, and my commitment, again, to allow His will to be done.
I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling, that many who have gone to church day in and day out their entire lives probably do just like I have done – use this time during the presentation of the gifts to sing (or not) and let their minds wander. Won’t you join me, instead, to recommit and imagine that it is our hearts which are being laid at the base of the altar?
“Lord Jesus, I give You thanks for Your forgiveness as I offer You the gift You truly desire, the gift of my heart. I pray for the grace that one day I will not have any sins of commission or omission to confess, knowing that I have allowed Your will to be done. Amen.”
(Giving Your Heart was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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