“I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, LORD, for it is good.“ Psalms 54:6
A spiritual bouquet is an offering to God as a presentation of gifts on behalf of others and comprises of spiritual benefits in favor of the other like masses, rosaries, mortifications, novenas, visits to the blessed sacrament and so on. It is in principle the best gift that we can offer to someone because such gifts far outweigh any material present and the rewards heaped by the one who receives it is not just limited to this earth but to the heavens beyond. The best blessing that we can give someone is to tell them that we have prayed for them.
At every mass, the offerings that we lift up to the Lord, be it our pleas, petitions and all that afflicts us are being placed on a golden scale and raised to heaven by the power of the bread and wine . Truly, the most excellent offering that we can give to the Lord is the presentation of our own self however weak and life torn we are. Because just as the bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Christ, so also will our entire being be changed into a sacrifice pleasing to God who will in turn transform us for his greater glory. Hence, it is important at every mass service to first pledge to the Lord that we are there standing in his presence to give ourselves entirely to him.
Whenever we light candles or incense at prayer time, if we observe the pattern of the smoke going upwards towards the direction of heaven, it brings to mind the words of the Psalmist; “Receive my prayer as incense, my uplifted hands as an evening sacrifice.”(Psalms 114:2) We can well liken our self as transcending towards the heavenly throne in the fragrant incense to render a sweet scent around heaven and this is what we actually do right here from the earth itself. We are standing on the threshold of heaven every time our hands are outstretched towards the Master of our souls.
It is said that whenever we recite the Rosary, millions of angels descend all around us joining along to pray with us and the Mother of God to her Son as we recall the incidents in his life at every mystery in a flash back of events that occurred here on this earth. What a wonderful feeling to know that our homes are filled with angels when we are in prayer and this thought ought to fill us with supreme delight.
We are all familiar with the event in the Old Testament when the Prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven on Mount Carmel when King Ahab was worshiping the false Gods. The Prophet invited him to a challenge to see if their false God could bring fire down on the bull laid on the altar as sacrifice. The false prophets tried their best to invoke “ Baal” to bring fire down on the offerings but to no avail because their God was an idol of stone and not a living one.
However, when Elijah called upon the God of Jacob so that he could bring back the faith of the people in Yahweh and abolish the pagan religion forever, we see how a supernatural fire came down from heaven and consumed all the offerings on the altar thus reinforcing the faith of the people in Yahweh, the True and Living God. At this event, we also see how after the heavens were shut for three years with no rain, the people prayed with Elijah for rain and once more their prayers were answered with an abundance of rain. Two offerings straight down from heaven, Fire and rain!
Just we lift up our hands to the Lord, there may be times when the Lord outstretches his hand towards us for a desired offering. At that moment, we cannot refuse the Lord or tell him that we are not ready yet. His desired offering could be a trial or even the final offering of our life once and for all. We have to be ready with the gift of our life in service to the Lord just as he showers us with his offerings and gifts each day of our life. Like a rose that is known to perfume the hand that crushes it, so also we must allow the storms in our life to help us be a scented offering before the Lord, his candle shining bright at the foot of his cross and outside his tomb until we become a permanent firelight in the bright lights of heaven with his resurrected self.
The offerings of the Old Testament were replaced for all time with the One offering of the Precious Lamb, God’s priceless offertory to the world. In return, all he asks for is the offering of our being in faithfulness to him, this precious life that he has given us to be dedicated solely to him. As King David laments in Psalms 51:” You do not want sacrifices or I would offer them, You are not pleased with burnt offerings. My sacrifice is a humble spirit O God, You will not reject a humble and contrite heart.”
As A child, I always used to be fascinated by the words in the hymn- ‘On the Paten with the host’ ; “ In the chalice let me be a drop of water mingled there, Lost O Jesus in thy love, thy great sacrifice I share.” We have been abundantly endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit which resides in us in great giftly measure. We are meant to use these gifts and turn them into offerings by our deeds through the spirit working in us. The Holy Spirit is that gentle reminder, at times so silent and subtle that we almost miss its message but if our heart are always open and minds alert, we will without fail hear the soft sound of the spirit imparting a special and meaningful note that only our senses can listen to and interpret.
The Lord once told the people of Israel that just as they were unable to discern as to which direction the sound of a wind was coming from and where it traveled to, similarly, we should never undermine the might of the Holy Spirit when it uses us as a gift for the benefit of others in enigmatic ways and means sometimes even at great distances. The offering of our love flowing heart is without saying a most cherished gift that we can present to our loved ones and an irreplaceable one that no other gift can match or even come close to.
Last but not the least, we all know that at the time of the ultimate offering of our life, we have to rise above all alone having detached ourselves from the earthly principles of life to be united to a greater and incorruptible glory being preserved for us as a beautiful gift from the Lord. We in turn have to be that special package that arrives in heaven stringed with the red ribbons of salvation to be presented for all times before the Giver of all Offerings on heaven and earth.