Last Sunday at Mass, as the 16 month old twins climbed all over Patrick, pulling on his ears, digging their shoes into his lap, then gut, then chest, I saw something incredible. A smile. I did a double take.
For me, Mass can sometimes feel like a war zone. Us verses them. I often spend the time trying to anticipate potential threats that could mean "Mass destruction" at the hands of our 5 under 5: Song books - potential weapons (or casualties), my clothing - potential wardrobe malfunction-in-waiting, the people sitting in front of us - potential victims susceptible to unsolicited back scratches and hair tugging. Even the perpetrators themselves can turn on each other in an instant or simply feel the need to release a war cry. My eyes jet back and forth seven thousand times before the second reading is even complete. It can be stressful and altogether exhausting.
Yet there was my husband, with his big smile. He nonchalantly placed his foot onto the kneeler in front of him to block the two year old from her fifth attempted escape and popped a bottle into the mouth of the twin (who had just been bopped on the head by the other twin) just as she was about to erupt into tears.
Crazy. Plain and simple.
I asked him afterwards how he could seem so at ease in the height of battle - and not just "at ease", but joyful even. He said that the priest's words during the Mass had had a deep impact on him: Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.
This. This effort to herd our little guys during Mass, to guide, teach, comfort, prevent or deal with outbursts, all of it, it's our sacrifice. And the words spoken by the priest point to the dignity and importance of the act. In caring for these little balls of crazy, we sacrifice the calming, serene, enjoyable experience that the Mass can offer for those who attend with... well, hands that are not caught in overdrive. That is a great sacrifice!
I love that we have a role to play in this, and that even if we miss out hearing everything or receiving consolations, we can just focus on pouring ourselves into this task and know that it is pleasing to God. It's kind of freeing.
Before the new revised translation of the Mass, the words my and yours were simply clumped together as our sacrifice. But I'm so happy that the language now emphasizes the distinct roles of the priest and that of the congregation. The priest speaks in the person of Christ, who is both priest and victim. "My offering" is the offering of His very body and blood - poured out for souls. The offering of the congregation is not only the bread and wine, given to us by God and offered back to Him, but it's also the various personal offerings and sacrifices we bring. Parents attending the Mass with overly energetic little ones can feel good about their offering - a total gift of our bodies and energy and possibly our sanity - an outpouring for the good of our children and as an act of love for all concerned. And these offerings are acceptable indeed!