Once the altar table has been prepared, the Liturgy of the Eucharist continues with the collection of the people’s gifts. Yes, the taking up of money – and foodstuffs and household items and other things for the use of the Church and for charity toward the poor – is actually an official part of our worship! In our country, of course, it’s usually money that’s collected – but most priests I know love home-grown tomatoes and other fresh vegetables enough to take those too! (Just don’t throw them!) [smile!]
You see, our gifts represent our involvement in the sacrifice of the Mass. We don’t just re-create Jesus’ sacrifice: the Mass is supposed to be a sacrificial occasion for us, too. In ancient worship, people would bring produce from their fields or animals from their farms, “giving up” these things to demonstrate their faith and dependence upon God. Often the value of the item sacrificed was worth a great deal in those less prosperous times.
The same thing is supposed to be true still today. Someone with a proper, balanced faith gives a significant portion of God’s blessings back to God, especially by sharing with the faith community and those less fortunate than ourselves. It’s usually labeled “good stewardship,” this proper use of riches which the Lord has given us. But at a more basic level it’s an act of faith and love. We do not hoard good things only for ourselves, but imitating God’s generosity, continue to share them. After all, so far God’s been pretty generous in what He’s given to sinners like you and me, right?