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 want to give themselves over fully to God in thanksgiving.
As often as not, however, sacrifices from humans are compromised. People do not present to God the best that they have but the expendable. Their offerings do not represent whole-hearted commitment but appeasement. This is why Jesus has to sacrifice himself. Representing all of humanity, of which he is creator and exemplar, Jesus makes the perfect sacrifice to God the Father. Of course, Jesus does not immolate himself. Rather the world’s egotism condemns him to death on a cross. His acceptance of the injustice out of obedience to the Father redeems the world of its sin.