Mercy, Not Sacrifice
The words of Yahweh through the prophet Hosea, the striking words of Christ in today's Mass, ring out distinctively to us, lovers of liturgy: "It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice."
The sacrifice of Christ on the Cross was not a mere upgrade of the temple holocausts, from rams and bullocks to human sacrifice. Rather, what made Christ's offering truly pleasing and perfect, the unique salvific element in the liturgy of Calvary, was love. Out of love, Christ submitted himself totally to the Father's will. Because of love, he laid down his life for our sakes. What truly redeems us is not the blood of sacrifice nor the death of Christ, which God does not desire in any way, but the self-sacrificing love of Christ. This love made him empty himself, empty himself even unto death, death on a cross! The true sacrifice of Christ is the sacrifice of Love.
That is why we should always approach the altar with love. It is truly saddening when people get mad and even fight over the liturgy and during the liturgy. Where there is hatred and division, communion becomes mere externality and liturgy is reduced to a show where the essential thing is only to be flawless and perfect. But what is more important in worship is not the external perfection of performance but the interior disposition of love. Our every act in the liturgy, whether flawless or flawed, must necessarily come from a loving heart, or it will only be empty and meaningless. The true liturgy is the liturgy of Love.
When we lift up the sacramental signs, we are not offering mere bread and wine. (What is God to do with bread and wine?) Rather, we are uniting ourselves with Christ as an offering to the Father, to be broken and shared to others. Hopefully, our participation in the sacrifice of Christ will make us persons who are more loving and capable of authentic sacrifice-no longer that of scapegoats and sin offerings, but of selfless self-giving after Christ's own example.
At times, we can become lost in the externals of ritual. But we should never forget that love is the essence of authentic liturgy.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!