I’ve recently started reading a book by Venerable Fulton Sheen titled, A Priest is Not His Own. In it he suggests that the surest way to attract young men to the priesthood is not to ask them, “Have you ever considered the priesthood?”, but rather, “Would you like to be a victim for souls?”
Now an immediate reaction to the word “victim” is a negative one. We do not want to be victims of anything—crime, abuse, war, etcetera. But that is not the type of victim Bishop Sheen is referring to. He is referring to the sacrificial act of offering oneself for the sake of another; to lay down one’s life for the life and well-being of another.
Jesus is a victim. We hear these words during the Eucharistic prayers at Mass when the priest prays:
Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion, the Resurrection from the dead, and the glorious Ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord, we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.Eucharistic Prayer I
A Spiritual Sacrifice
Jesus offers himself as a pure, holy, and spotless victim to the Father—through his sacrifice on Calvary which is made present at every Mass—in reparation for our sins.
There are two things I would like to say about this. First, Jesus offered himself for you so that you may have eternal life. He did not offer himself so that you could simply live a normal life here on earth and be happy. He saved you so that you could become his dwelling place on earth and his eternal delight in heaven. What is offered at Mass is not temporal ease, community, fellowship, freedom, or success. What is offered is a life, an eternal life, and an opportunity to become one with that life.
This leads to my second comment. To receive that gift of life we must give up our earthly lives. Keep in mind the line in the prayer above, “we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty from the gifts you have given us, this pure victim.” God has given us the gifts necessary for us to offer sacrifice to him—the salvific and eternal sacrifice comes from our hands, through his glorious majesty. What does this mean? It means that Christ’s sacrifice comes from our hands. Yes, Christ died for our sins, but that is not what I mean. What I mean is that this pure, holy, spotless sacrifice comes from us. We make up the sacrifice. How? We are baptized members of the Body of Christ. The tremendous gift of our baptism has entered us into Christ’s life. However, as St. Paul says, in order to live with him, we must first die with him. At every Mass we offer ourselves in Christ to the Father. We offer our bodies, united in his Body, as a spiritual sacrifice acceptable to the Father.
[Note well, I’m not diminishing Christ’s salvific act, his true presence in the Eucharist, or the necessity of the priest to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. I’m simply highlighting our necessary participation in—instead of spectating—that sacrifice.]
Boldness and Humility
We are called to be victims as Christ is the Victim. Now think about this specifically and personally. God has called each of you as a unique victim to be offered to him for others. Think of the family he has given you, the community in which he has placed you, and the workplace in which you serve. How are you offering your life as victim for these souls? How are you offering yourself for your spouse and your children? How are you offering yourself for your fellow members of your community or small group members, your pastor, coworkers, neighbors, strangers in the pew next to you?
Now, more than ever, we need to be pondering this question—with fear and trembling. We need you all to be pure, holy, and spotless victims. There is no Church without people willing to follow Christ to Calvary. His heart was pierced to give us life. Our hearts too must be pierced. I beg you, offer your heart to the Father. Pray to Mary to give you the docility, humility, and obedience she had to respond to the Father with filial boldness, responding “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)
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Caroline Harvey is the associate communication director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Prior to working at the archdiocese, Caroline worked in various ministry positions throughout southeast Wisconsin, focusing on teaching and discipleship. She is currently pursuing a doctor of ministry degree in liturgical catechesis from the Catholic University of America. She holds master of arts degree in biblical theology and bachelor of arts in communications media from John Paul the Great Catholic University.