by Father Bryan P. Babick, SL.L.
One difference in the forthcoming revised translation will be to the invitation the priest offers in asking all to pray that the sacrifice be acceptable to God. Currently the priest asks to pray that, “our sacrifice may be acceptable…,” but in the new translation he will invite us to pray that, “my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable…”
The distinction between the priest’s sacrifice and everyone else’s better reflects the faith of the Church that all present at Mass may offer their own intention for which to apply the sacrifice being offered. In the Old Testament, Judas Maccabeus sent an offering to the Temple so that a sacrifice of atonement could be offered for those who had lost their lives. 2 Maccabees 12 says that in doing this Judas and his soldiers acted in an excellent and noble way because they were expecting the resurrection of the dead and went about achieving it for them through sacrifice.
The early Christians remembered this text because they had seen the Messiah risen from the dead. They recalled how they had offered sacrifices in the former Covenant and reasoned that, since Jesus had instructed them to sacrifice bread and wine, this would be the new offering of atonement. They believed that the new offering is the re-presentation, or living memory, of Christ’s self-sacrifice to the Father for all of humanity, and concluded that the offering of bread and wine was a source of spiritual fruits that could be applied for the benefit of any intention.
The change from “our sacrifice” to “my sacrifice and yours” better reminds us that everyone at Mass is present to ask that the limitless good of the death and Resurrection of Christ be bestowed on their intention. There can be hundreds of intentions at each sacrifice. The Mass is the greatest possible prayer since it is the perfect offering of Christ to the Father.
Catholics often request that the priest apply a Mass for a specific intention. Most commonly such intentions are for the deceased, but can be for the living as well. Popular piety holds that since the priest stands in the person of Christ, special graces can be obtained by requesting that a priest apply the fruits of a Mass for one’s intention.
Bringing an intention to the perfect prayer of the Mass is an exercise of the common priesthood received in Baptism. This is why we are supposed to stand before replying, “may the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands.” Standing illustrates that we too are offering a sacrifice to God for an intention, while relying on His representative, the priest, who is chosen from the community, to speak for all present.
Having Mass said for any intention is as noble and excellent as the sacrifice arranged by Judas Maccabeus. Requesting the intention be offered by your priest has its advantages. Your intention becomes that of everyone who has come to the sacrifice without their own.
The heavens open up for us during Mass and bringing an intention to the sacrifice is like looking up and praying that Lord remember anew that He died and rose for our particular intention as well. Every Mass offered for the intention of anyone or anything receives God’s special attention and applies the fruits of Christ’s death and Resurrection to it.