Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands it will become our spiritual drink. (Preparation of the Gifts Prayer)
I’ve been to Mass thousands of times, but I don’t believe these words ever stood out to me before. Yet as Father said these words, I was struck by the beautiful interplay between God and man. It is through the Lord providing the sun, rain, and nutrients that we have the grapes of the vine. But the work does not all fall on God. We tend to the vines, we harvest the grapes, we change them from simple fruit into wine. Then we offer it back to the Lord and He transforms it into something far beyond us.
The Lord could do it all on His own. Nothing we do is particularly crucial to the end product. Could not the God who made the entire world also produce the wine needed for the Mass?
What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? (Psalm 8:4)
Rather then do it all on His own, God allows us to be co-workers and co-creators with Him. He uses us to bring about new life in humanity and He uses us to make Himself present in the gifts of bread and wine.
I’ve been told at numerous teacher in-services that the one who is working the hardest is the one who is learning the most. Perhaps the Lord knew this, too. The Eucharist does not simply appear to us as we go about our day. It, instead, involves work on our part. We labor to bring about the bread and wine that becomes, through the prayers and work of the priest, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
We are co-workers with the Lord. And part of me is suddenly struck by that fact. Though His children, we are not treated as babies. We are called to work in His vineyard with Him. Laboring, we share in His work of redeeming the world. His death on the cross was enough to forgive all the sins of humanity throughout time. Yet He calls us to enter into that most glorious work, claiming our identity as children working for their Father.
I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. (Colossians 1:24)
Sometimes we are a part of the planting crew, sowing the seeds even though we do not see them take root. Other times we are simply weeding, a thankless task that seems to be without the benefits of planting or harvesting. And other times, we are the harvesters, collecting the fruit borne from the work of others. In all of it, though, the Lord is working alongside us. Answering His call necessarily means following Him into the vineyard. It is not enough to pursue individual sanctity, we must strive to preach the Gospel to all peoples at all times. We must enter into the work of a new creation, a new Eden.
In His Goodness, the Lord works with us and transforms our little offering into something beautiful and heavenly. The end result is something we perhaps never expected, but yet He used our work to play a part. He doesn’t need us, but He chooses to use us. Thank God.
Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth. (3 John 8)