Who Gives To Whom: Keeping It Straight
Thoughts on the Second Readings by Joe Frankenfield
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sacrifice was central to Jewish faith in Jesus’ day. To assure blessings for their nation Jewish priests regularly offered God animals and food in Jerusalem’s temple. Given this experience, Jews could easily make sense of Jesus, God’s perfect son, offering himself to his Father as a sacrifice that would never need repeating. That scenario worked well for them. It doesn’t work so well for many of us.
The idea that God wants something from human beings, let alone a life, in payment for our shortcomings, holds little power over our imaginations. The idea that we offend God who, in turn demands satisfaction for our affronts seems rooted in past ages of kings and despots or contemporary pockets of chaos where warlords and crime bosses rule.
On some deep level the very experience of Jesus who loved so deeply and selflessly that he accepted death rather than abandon us clashes radically with the picture of a God who views us as beholden to him or keeps a ledger of our deposits and withdrawals with him. Such a God is too small, too much like us at our worst.
Sacrifice isn’t passé. It’s necessary for life and beauty and love to grow. Every parent knows this. Everyone who loves a friend, strives to better the world by her work, everyone who brings peace by forgiveness and patience know this. Everyone who absorbs evil rather than passing it on to others knows sacrifice first hand.
We honor sacrifice. We pray for the strength to sacrifice in our lives. We remember Jesus because he brought life wherever he walked and didn’t retreat from it when it cost him everything.
For us, this is Jesus’ revelation: God sacrifices for life. We wouldn’t have believed it if we hadn’t seen it. God doesn’t demand sacrifice; God sacrifices for us – with us. Awesome!