Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Kings 8:22-23.27-30; Mark 7:1-13)

Lay evangelist Matthew Kelly is advising people not to give up chocolate for Lent.  Rather he wants listeners to follow his daily program of reflection and action.  No doubt he will show them how to go beyond performing superficial actions.  He will prompt them to give their whole lives to the Lord.  His dismissal of fasting from chocolate approximates Jesus’ critique of Pharisaical practices in today’s gospel.

Jesus takes the Pharisees to task for minding the shell and not the kernel of the Law.  He finds their concern about purifying their hands before eating as if they were preparing to offer Temple sacrifice pompous.  He would say that if they really desired to please God they should help the needy.

It is not wrong nor is it very hard to give up chocolate.  We might begin our Lenten penance in that way.  But we need to go far beyond that.  Giving the money saved on sweets to assist the poor is a small step in the right direction.  Let us exert ourselves every day to become a blessing for others.

Monday, February 8, 2016

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.