Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Kings 8:1-7.9-13; Mark 6:53-56)

There’s an old story about a chicken and a pig planning the farmer’s birthday. The chicken says to the pig, “Why don’t we give the farmer a breakfast of bacon and eggs?” The pig responds, “Wait a minute. For you, it’s a small donation. For me it’s total sacrifice.”

Humans have always sacrificed animals to express their gratefulness to God. In the account of the dedication of Solomon’s temple today, “sheep and oxen too many to number or count” are offered to the Lord. Because animals are so vital for the welfare of the people, they actually represent the people themselves. The reading today is saying that the people are attempting to give themselves over fully to God in thanksgiving.

Perhaps as often as not, however, sacrifices of humans are imperfect. People do not present to God the best that they have, but the expendable. Their offerings do not represent a commitment of the heart but, like a lie, an artful deceit. This is why Jesus has to sacrifice himself. Representing all of humanity because he is its creator and flawless example, Jesus makes the perfect sacrifice to God the Father. Of course, Jesus does not immolate himself but thoroughly exhausts himself in bringing about his Father’s Kingdom. Because his efforts are too good for the egotism of the world to bear, he is condemned to death. Then, in determined resignation, the sacrifice is completed on the cross. Now humans are really given to God.