Friday, August 11, 2006

The Sweet Fragrance of Sacrifice

Readings (19th Sunday in Ordinary Time; August 13, 2006):
I Kings 19:4-8, Psalm 34:2-9, Ephesians 4:30-5:2, St. John 6:41-51

It is commonly understood that we become what we eat.
Junk food diets reduce the human body to sluggish living. Folks on
this food plan are referred to as "couch potatoes." You get the
picture. Today's readings reflect on the adequateness and
appropriateness to 'taste and see the goodness of the Lord.' The
bread that Jesus gives is his flesh for the life of the world. Unless
we eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood we have no life
in us. Eating from the table of the Lord should never be a
perfunctory performance. If we are to be strong in the strength of
the Lord, if we are to encounter the living Lord of eternity and
history, if we are to be imitators of God and of His Christ, then we
must desire to consume him who said, "I am the bread of life."

St. Paul exhorts us to do 3 things that produce the fragrance of
Christ's sacrifice. The way of Christ is learned through the meal of
Christ. It is the picture of the Eucharist that Paul lifts up when he
reminds us to be kind, to be compassionate, to be forgiving toward one

The way of Christ is not seen in the mean spiritedness of selfishness
and self-importance. Be kind to one another is what St. Paul exhorts
today. Kindness is that discipline of life that approaches everything
and everybody as breakable and fragile; in need of tender loving care.
The way of Jesus is not to break a bruised reed. Our approach to one
another and everyone we meet must be with the kindness that reminds
them and us we are all made in the image of God. Violence will never
earn us a place in the hearts of humankind. But no one will ever
forget a kind word or deed. Kindness can mend fences between
disagreeing parties, heal a breaking marriage, or halt war between
nations. The sacrifice of a meek and quiet and kind spirit is like
the aroma of fresh cut flowers; but more importantly it is like the
sacrificial aroma of Christ's life and offering to God.

Secondly, St. Paul tells us to be compassionate to one another. The
Christian life and the heart of the church is about compassion.
Everything Jesus said and did was for our sake, for the life of the
world. To be like Christ is to put ourselves in someone's place and
make their place better for them because we were there. Is there any
future in bitterness, fury, reviling or shouting? There is no future
in malice or self indulgence. The witness of the church is that of
sacrificial compassion for the hungry, the thirsty, the wounded, and
the dying. What believers were to one another they were to all. It
has been said that no one will care how much you know until they know
how much you care. Compassion is the work of faith. It is the sweet
aroma of the Christ who was bruised for iniquities, wounded for our
transgressions and for our peace was chastised.

Lastly, St. Paul calls us to forgive one another. Love does not seek
its own interests. Love does not brood over injury, nor rejoice over
wrongdoing. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all
things and endures all things. The Christian revelation of incarnate
truth is that vengeance is not our domain. Only perfect love casts
out fear and vindication. History in the world and in the church is
replete with unforgiveness. The bitter road of unforgiveness is
littered with broken homes, broken promises, and nations torn apart by
war and revenge. How desperately we need to meditate on these words
of our Lord who said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what
they do." Consider the possibility that there is no longer a reason
to hate, malign, or destroy one another.

It may be that we have not considered enough how the sacrifice of the
mass is not a show but rather a showdown between kindness and hate,
forgiveness and bitterness, compassion and self-centeredness. May we
choose to be the sweet fragrance of sacrifice, Jesus' broken body and
blood, for the life of the world.

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