Father David's Reflection for Monday of Week Two (Ordinary Time)
To the upright I will show the
saving power of God.
(Responsorial: Psalm 50)
1 Samuel 15: 16-23 makes it forcefully clear that the first and essential way to glorify God or “hallow” his Name is to do what he commands. The failure to do this is what gives religion a bad name.
When Saul attacked the Amalekites, God told him through Samuel to “utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep.” But:
Saul and the people spared the best of the sheep and cattle, and all that was valuable. All that was worthless they destroyed.
The Lord then said: “I regret that I made Saul king, for he has not carried out my commands.” Confronted with this, Saul claimed he had obeyed, because he had used the best of what should have been destroyed to offer sacrifice to God—like someone who makes money by taking advantage of the poor and then gives a big donation to the Church.
Samuel said, “Is the pleasure of the Lord in burnt offerings and sacrifices, or in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Yes, obedience is better than sacrifices.”
Scripture scholars tell us not to take literally the command to kill men, women and children. The God who spoke to Samuel is the same God who said in the second Vatican Council:
Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities… along with their population is a crime against God and humanity itself. It deserves unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.
The point 1 Samuel makes is that, if we see God and creatures in perspective with authentic “Fear of the Lord,” nothing—absolutely no created value—takes precedence over the will of God. And no human act, nothing we “give” to God, including all the prayers and worship in the world, can substitute for living the way God commands.
That command, from beginning to end, is love. If we do not love God and neighbor—and show it in actions—nothing “religious” we do is authentic.
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister
We all know this. But we need to keep ourselves aware of it. How many people come untroubled to Mass though they speak with consistent venom about the President, politicians, and members of the Church they consider “unorthodox”? Haters cannot present themselves as “acceptable sacrifices” to God. 1
In Mark 2:18-22 Jesus calls us to be aware of what we are actually expressing in our religious acts. Fasting is a physical expression of spiritual hunger for union with the Bridegroom. If not, it has little spiritual value. Or at least, not the value that fasting, prayer and all other religious acts should take on now that Jesus has poured out the “new wine” of mystery into our hearts.
Initiative: Be aware of who God is and of who you are. Live mystery.
 The Church Today, no.80 Matthew 5:23-24; Romans 12:1.