March 25 - Beyond the Law
Mar 25, 2019
Scriptures: Jesus fulfills the Prophet Ahaz's words when he is born in Bethlehem. It is signs like these, predictions that are fulfilled by God, that allow us to accept the authority of Christ and to help us see that Jesus is God. What we see in today's group of readings is that "Emmanuel" is not just a Christmas name for Jesus, recognizing that the Son of God has been born and now "God is with us." It should be noted that the name means God is "With" us and not "Among" us. It shows us that Christ's mission was not only intended to be a divine accompaniment, but as we will see in the weeks to come that God not only wants to be "With us" but to be our friends. Futhermore, not only to invite us into a divine friendship, but to a familial adoption, and ultimately unity with God by the full human acceptance of the will of God. The Law taught us about the Lord's will, Jesus fulfilled the Law by defining God's will incarnate. When we look back at God's will in history, He sent Jesus in the last century of the temple's existence, the rebellion groups were already active (Barrabus), and it was only a matter of time before the final rebellion against Rome was launched and their temple was destroyed. Christ came to earth and within fifty years the last Jewish animal sacrifice in history was made in the temple and the ancient practice was ceased forever. When we read the second reading again, we can conclude it was God's will that neither his chosen people, nor those grafted into the chosen people, need ever sacrifice a beast again. On that most Holy of Fridays, the need for sacrifice was fulfilled in Christ.
Core Principle of Faith: As Catholics we believe that Jesus was the fulfillment of the sacrificial element of the law. Jesus died on the cross, "Once for all," in a sacrifice whose fruit transcends time and becomes available to every generation. At each Mass we do not "re-crucify" Jesus, but we call forward the one sacrifice into our own time so that we can play our part in the sacrifice. The Mass connects us directly to Christ's crucifixion two thousand years ago, just as with the Jewish sacrificial animals, we attach our intentions to the victim; forgiveness of sins, giving praise and thanksgiving to God, a prayer for healing, etc. We pray that "Our sacrifice may acceptable..." to the Lord, but know ultimately that it is "through Him [Jesus], with Him, and in Him i the unity of the Holy Spirit," that our sacrifice glorifies God. When we are at Mass, after the bread and wine are consecrated and Jesus Christ becomes truly present, body and blood, soul an divinity, that we join Christ's intention to be sacrifice for all and offer ourselves to the Father through Him! And through the Cross! We offer the Lord our sufferings, patiently endured, as our participation in the suffering of Christ Crucified. We also offer all of our efforts since our last Mass to do the will of God, using our talents, doing good deeds, and loving our neighbors, as our self gift to the Father - We offer not just the First Fruits of our lies, but lay our entire lives (our sins to be forgiven and our good acts to belong to God alone) in the Father's hands. Then we, poured out and emptied in love with the Father, we receive Holy Communion and we are filled reciprocally with God's gift of Himself to us. This is Trinitarian life!
Living this at Home: Ironically instilling this into our family comes with the commitment to attend the Mass. It also comes with the need to educate our children on the meaning of the sacrifice of the Mass. If your child is old enough assign them the task of putting out the garbage on the curb for the next few weeks. If they don't do it, don't do it for them. Let it pile, if the animals get at it, make them clean it. Put a TV or something you know the city won't pick up out with the trash. If they are dutiful, they will see that when we bring it to the curb, it is taken away, and they have but to return the empty barrels. They will learn that some big trash items or unique trash items need a special appointment or drop-off to get rid of (TV). If we ignore trash, it simply piles up, we can hide it only so long before its odor reaches the neighbors, disease sets in, and even the family reputation get's tarnished. We can help our children know through this analogy, (perhaps even a pragmatic analogy), that each Sunday that we come to Mass the routine trash of our smaller, minor, venial, sins are forgiven. Nobody disagrees that the less trash we have the better, but even a full bucket of regular trash would be picked up. (I chuckle to think that in Newton if you need more you need to buy special bags). We can teach our children that if we have irregular trash we need to make sure to contact the trash department and make special arrangements, or we have to make a trip to the dump. You can dump regular trash and the non-regular items there. This would be the sacrament of Reconciliation and those non-regular items would be sins of a grave nature - Fornication, drug use, major theft, assault, etc. The trash analogy will help kids understand the regular need to empty the bins on a weekly basis, but I'm afraid it only offers half of the story. Sure it is good to be without sin, but to what end? To avoid punishment. We also have to promote that while we take our trash every Mass, we are also supposed to be offering all of Good to the Glory of God. I admit, I don't have the space for another analogy today, but for now it is enough to simply acknowledge that.