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Harvest Sacrifice

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Sermon for the Harvest Festival and first public Mass of the Provisional Mission of St Anselm and St Odile, Sheffield.

You may be uncomfortable with the phrase “sacrifice of the Mass.” Mention the word “sacrifice” and you might already be thinking of something like the ending of the film “The Wicker Man” with folk sacrificing animals and an unsuspecting policeman to pagan gods whilst Sir Christopher Lee dances around singing “Sumer is ycomen in”.  in his mum’s best frock last thing you want to see when the word “sacrifice” is mentoned is a man in a dress singing loudly.

But we often talk of sacrifices in our everyday language, don’t we? In fact, the harvest festivals that happen every year are themselves sacrifices and ones that we make, or could make daily if we want.
When did you last make a sacrifice?

[PAUSE]

We might say that sacrifice means pain and going without for a greater good. We sacrifice a morning’s sleep to get up and go to work to earn money for our family. We sacrifice our last chocolate hobnob to our little daughter just for the smile on her face. However, to sacrifice literally means to make something holy. When we celebrate a harvest festival we give thanks to God for the produce that has been grown or made – a year’s hard work of the farming community. But that produce, all that has been grown or made or farmed or milked, all is the result of our labours and those of our farming and fishing communities. Why give thanks to God for our hard work? We did it, didn’t we?

[PAUSE]

It’s been a hard year for farmers this year. The weather has been against us, and we face perhaps a difficult winter without good food for our sheep and cattle. No amount of hard work can alter the weather in our favour. In fact, as scientists say, it is precisely our hard work since the Industrial Revolution that has caused Global Warming. We reap the rewards of that Global Warming now because we sought to make work easier a couple of centuries ago. It sounds very depressing, but it appears that all our hard work causes us more hard work and there is no end to it.

Right back in the beginning Adam and Eve, standing for all of humanity, sin because they try to decide what is Good and what is Evil for themselves without God. They don’t want to live on God’s terms but rather their own. And so, God gives them what they want and it isn’t pretty.

And unto Adam he said , Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee , saying , Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken : for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return .

Hard words, but what we see in our lives is that living and working without God is just toil and labour unceasing. We make rods for our own backs.

If our idea of sacrifice is indeed pain and hardship for a greater good, then maybe we have lost sight of that greater good in the world. For many people, sacrifices are made to no avail and this is because they have lost the idea of what it means to be holy. To be holy, we need God’s involvement. The fruit of our labours is given its worth by God; the pain and suffering we go to for our labours is given meaning by God, and with that meaning comes a joy that can’t be taken away. To offer our hardships to God and enduring them means that we can make present something truly good in this world, a good that stands apart from it.

[PAUSE]

And what of the Sacrifice of the Mass? Here we share in the sacrifice that Our Lord Jesus Christ made of Himself for our Salvation. In the Sacrifice of the Mass we join ourselves not only to the first Mass on Maundy Thursday in the upper room, but to the crucifixion of Our Lord. In the Sacrifice of the Mass, we receive Our Lord’s true body and blood so that we may share in the fruit of His labours on our behalf, namely our Salvation from all that is evil. Every Mass is a Harvest Festival because we thank God for bringing about His work at our hands.

Our hard work is worth more than we think. It depends who we are working for.

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