Did you hear or see the readings for today? Wow, I am not even sure where to begin and I can only wish I had spent more time in the prior days giving this deeper thought and reflection.
From the first reading, from Samuel:
“Does the LORD so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as in obedience to the command of the LORD?
Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission than the fat of rams.
Well, that is food for thought now, isn’t it?
Obedience is more important than sacrifice. I have come to understand this to say that both things are important, but one without the other is meaningless. And the emphasis is on obedience here might tell us that obedience is the inner quality. As a result, obedience is foundational; without it, sacrifice is meaningless and even offensive to God.
It is important to remember however – both are important!
The Gospel gives us these words from Mark, that Jesus said:
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast.
People came to Jesus and objected,
“Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Yeah… why aren’t those disciples holy enough?! Why aren’t they fasting? Jesus has a reply for that…
“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
The relationship between obedience and sacrifice is revealed here. We are to pay attention and we must know, from being obedient, to know when to fast or not fast. This makes me think of a quotation from St. Teresa of Avila that says something to the effect of, “there is a time for porridge and there is a time for partridge!”
If you are a regular reader, you might know that I had an editorial essay in this week’s Evangelist. I wrote about it here, or you can just read the essay itself at the Evangelist website by clicking here. For all the things I have had published in the Evangelist, this one has earned me the most feedback in a short period of time! The majority of that feedback has been positive and I am grateful for that.
That said – I have heard some other kinds of feedback. There is a concern that I am essentially saying that it is OK to just show up at church once a year and receive the Eucharist, without regard for the rules.
That is not what I was saying. I was suggesting that people who might come to mass once a year or twice or year, or whenever they felt like it. I was asked if I thought it was not a mortal sin to attend Sunday mass and if I was making up my own rules.
The Code of Canon Law 1247 states:
On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.
Yes, we are obliged to attend mass and in the absence of such an act, we are also obliged to present ourselves to a priest for confession.
The same thing would apply if a person who was away from the Church, like I was, for example, and if that person returned to communion without suitable confession. I do understand this and was not suggesting anything otherwise.
I was also saying that it is difficult to hear and understand being in a state of mortal sin when we miss mass, given the state of the world. I was not saying that it was not a mortal sin.
So this diversion, a significant and important one, leads me back to our readings for today. Obedience and sacrifice are both in order.
Obedience is born out of a deep listening and responding to God’s call. Sacrifice is elemental to this. Obedience without sacrifice is as meaningless as sacrifice without obedience.
In the end, is it better for us to split hairs or is it more important to invite people in and have them grow in obedience and sacrifice? These things all seem to happen in community, so none of us can do that alone.