Each Sunday at Mass, there is a collection during which we make our weekly offering. Many parishes have moved to greater transparency and so the weekly church bulletin often contains a simple financial statement showing parish administrative and other expenses on one side of the ledger and income from weekly offerings and other sources on the other.
At one level the transparency is a good thing; it provides an accountability that benefits everyone. But it also creates a danger of our thinking that the collection at Mass is just about meeting our parish’s financial needs.
More importantly, our offering at Mass each week symbolizes something about our relationship to God and to the goods of this earth. Father Lawrence Mick writes,
It is not just a matter of giving God one or two percent of our income or even of tithing ten percent to God. In biblical times, the Jews made an offering of the first fruit of the harvest. It was a sign of gratitude for the harvest but also a symbol that the whole harvest really belonged to God. What we give in the collection should be a symbol of all that we have. It is a reminder that everything we own is a gift from God. Our gift in the collection is both a sign of our gratitude and a symbol that we will use all of God’s gifts as God wills.
So the practical aspect of keeping our parish running is important. But we should not lose sight of the symbolic element of our offering. As we prepare ourselves to receive the Eucharist, we give back to God some of what God has given us as an expression of our willingness to give ourselves to God.