Summary: The sacrifice of Christ needs to be imitated by the Christian, by loving service and working to put down evil.
Thursday of 2nd Week in Course
Joy of the Gospel
There is an innate drive in every human, once he has discovered the existence of a transcendent reality, a creative Being who can impact his life, to offer something to that Being. In pagan societies, where the forces of nature, or economics, or politics seems to be under the control of multiple, conflicting deities, many altars are built to many gods. The plea seems to be, please take this dish of figs, or side of beef, or, in truly perverse places, this first born child, instead of sending a plague, or a war, or an economic disaster on me. In other words, worship is generally offered, and sacrifice, so that these nasty, powerful beings would leave the worshiper in peace. It’s kind of like what the citizen of many countries feels about taxes and governments.
The Hebrew religion introduced something beyond that. First, monotheism. There is one God to whom we owe everything. This God, we learn first from Hosea, loves us like a really good husband loves his wife. That love endures even through betrayal, even the worst treason. This God punishes only to guide us to the right way. We offer sacrifice because God has loved us and we know we owe Him something in return. Hence the practice of tithing the first tenth of our labor to God’s work.
Second, the Hebrew religion tied our worship of God to our day-to-day conduct of life. The sinner is seen as offering unacceptable sacrifice. We must treat our neighbor, as our God, with the same love we owe ourselves. The family of God, then, is one family with mutual obligations of service and love.
The coming of Jesus was like the ripening of those two teachings. To the teaching, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, he added, as I have loved you. That is, our duty to our brother and sister is service unto death. We not only must not hurt them, we must act to help them until it even hurts us. That’s the example of Jesus we must follow. As He, the great high priest, offered the sacrifice of his Body and Blood, and as the priest re-presents that sacrifice at every Mass, so we imitate Him when we sacrifice ourselves for others.
The Holy Father gives us a practical consideration in the light of this teaching: ‘Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.’