In her recent teaching to us on the Eucharist, I was struck by this phrase: “the altar of the cross,” which Lourdes used. What made it meaningful to me was the context of the phrase. What she said was this:
“Wherever our cross is, there is our altar of sacrifice. There is where our offering during the consecration of the Mass becomes real, our sacrifice as real flesh, the real pain of our suffering WITH Christ’s.” [Emphasis is mine..]
How often have you heard “Live the Mass”? This is the reality which Lourdes addresses. I have been taught in Love Crucified to enter my sorrows, my pains, my core wounds—not to minimize them, not to gloss over them, not to ignore them. We have the tendency to distract ourselves from pain. And often our greatest sufferings are in our relationships with those closest to us, family, friends, co-workers– our altar of the cross.
Here is what is most critical: “Wherever our cross is, there is our altar of sacrifice. There is where our offering during the consecration of the Mass becomes real….”
We need to ponder deeply how the cross manifests itself in our lives. Whoever we may be, single or married, divorced, widowed, rich or poor, one reality is a constant. To live Christ, to live the Mass is to live in love in our relationships. In A SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, Christ tells us: “Ponder every relationship and situation in your lives where you are not loving with Me, through Me and in Me. Ask yourselves, “Why is it so difficult to love this person or to love in these situations?” It is precisely in those situations and with those persons where you need to be purified. It is only in this way that you can become ONE with My Eucharistic life and be transformed into Love”.[#57] For each of us the cross lies in that person in our lives who is most difficult to love.
Even clearer is this explanation: “To come to the altar of sacrifice in the Mass without having lived my daily sacrifice in the altar of my home or work, is a sterile sacrifice to the Father. The words of the Mass – through Him, with Him and in Him – must be lived out daily in the ordinary and tediousness of my life, in the sacrament of the moment. It is only in this way that my sacrifice is truly pleasing to God and made perfect in Jesus’ sacrifice of perfect love. “
The Mass in my life is my sacrifice of the cross, those difficult relationships “lived out daily in the ordinary and tediousness of my life, in the sacrament of the moment” –this is the Mass which I live in union with my crucified Christ. If I cannot bring my ordinary life to the cross in this way, my offering of the Mass is not real but insubstantial and shallow.
As our lives change, that difficult person may change, but the cross is a constant. Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. As we struggle to confront that person with gentleness, tenderness, kindness, generosity, we live the Mass. Our offering is a true holocaust, real, substantial, one with the sacrificial love-offering of Jesus, both on the domestic altar of our home and on the consecrated altar of our parish church.