Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Judges 11:29-39a; Matthew 21:1-14)
The first reading today leaves us heart-sick if not confused about fulfilling the vows one makes. The Israelite judge Jephthah sacrifices his daughter in fulfillment of a vow to the Lord. Perhaps he was thinking of an animal when he promises to sacrifice the first one who comes from his house if he is victorious in battle. However, the text clearly state: “’I shall offer him up as a burnt sacrifice.’”
In no way is human sacrifice legitimate. Indeed, it is forbidden by Mosaic Law (Lev 18:21). Its practice indicates a period of the history of Israel when the Law is not heeded if it is even established. No one today should even think of such a barbarity today. Nor should any parent claim the right to dedicate a son or daughter to God in the sense of imposing on him or her to become a priest or religious. (Of course, this does not mean that a father or mother may not pray for a vocation in the family and support a child who shows an inclination or expresses a desire to serve the Lord in this intimate way.)
Almost no one will consider sacrificing another human being to God, but many propose other kinds of sacrifices that are imprudent or even impossible. One theologian recommends that the parish priest be consulted if one wants to give away land to the Church or begin a fast from food for an extended period of time. As in the Old Testament the priest seems the one appointed by God to judge the appropriateness of personal sacrifices.