Simple gifts. Melchizedek brings forward simple gifts of bread and wine, offers them with a pure and humble heart, and is remembered forever. Jesus takes the simple fish and loaves and offers them to the people, and thousands are fed. Paul instructs the Corinthians on the importance of remembering the simple offering of Christ at the Last Supper. At Mass we offer forward the gifts of bread and wine as a simple offering. While these gifts, bread and wine, are ordinary and normal, when we offer them to Christ, He makes them so much more.
We see in these readings that God has a long history of taking the simple gifts of His people, and when they are offered in love, He transforms them miraculously into blessings and grace. The same happens with our gifts at Mass. The bread and wine are offered and transformed into something far from ordinary or natural, but rather into something supernatural, into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ Himself in the Eucharist. One of my favorite parts of Mass is the Offertory. It is often seen as an intermission between the readings and the Eucharist, or as a time for the Church to take our money merely as a logistical need to keep the bills paid. Another name for this part of mass is the Sacrifice of Praise. It is here, after we have heard the Word of God, that we offer up to God our simple gifts. We offer the bread and wine, the water, our money, at some Masses canned goods, historically even things like food and livestock were offered. In some way though, the most important gift that we offer at that time is our own lives in praise to God. We take all of the gifts of the community and let the priest lay them on the altar on our behalf as a simple offering to God. Then we praise Him and ask Him to take these gifts we offer and to do sometime extraordinary with them and transform them – to use them to sanctify us and the whole world.
As the priest is preparing and offering up our gifts, there is a prayer I recall from being a server as a child. As he poured water into the wine he prayed softly, “Lord, by the mingling of this water and wine, may we come to share in the Divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.” Jesus loves us and wants to be with us. From the beginning of time He has been seeking us and setting up all of history to bring us into intimate union with Him. As you look at Sacred Scripture you see the story of Salvation History unfolding as one continuous story building to that one end – from creation to Melchizedek to Christ and then on to us as Paul talks about. Christ wants to give himself as a gift to you so that you might be united to Him.
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which is a celebration of the beautiful way that God is bringing that plan about. From all time He knew that He would give us Himself as a gift in the Eucharist and that it would be through His outpouring of love that we would be transformed and united with Him. Nothing less than that is what happens every time you receive the Eucharist at Mass. Nothing less miraculous than the feeding of the 5,000 happens, nothing less important to history than the gift of Melchizedek. Rather, what happens at Mass is greater than these things and the fulfillment of that which they foreshadowed. As you sit in Mass next time, take the chance to be reminded of how these simple gifts and the simple ritual of the Mass, while they seem ordinary and mundane, are the means God has designed to achieve the greatest miracles in the universe. It is through this simple liturgy that Christ unites Himself to you in Love.