Tag Archives: sacrifice

Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

“Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist”
A reflection on Matthew 9:9-13, 12:6-8; Hosea 6:6
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Matthew 9:9-13 (NABRE)

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The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Third Week of Lent, Saturday

Luke 18:9-14

He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14

Humble faces shine
In the mirror of mercy.
Proud miens malign.

A Pharisee and a tax collector 
Went up to the temple to pray.
One stood aloof and the other downcast,
A kingpin and a castaway.

With a wooden beam in the oculus,1
Sinners and swindlers were despised.
God’s favored son am I, thought the pietist,
Keeping the laws, he moralized.

Alas for me, beat the sad publican
His breast with supplicating grief.
May the smoke of incense and sacrifice2
Atone for this woebegone thief.

The Pharisee and the tax collector
Came down from the temple that day.
The self-righteous prig left unjustified;
The son had his sins cast away.



1 Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:41-42.

2 The Greek verb in the phrase, “be merciful to me” in Luke 18:13 is hilaskomai, not eleeó (as in Kyrie eleison). New Testament scholar Kenneth Bailey writes: “Verse 13 contains the word hilasthete (make an atonement). The more common word eleeson (have mercy) occurs in 18:39. The appearance of the weighty theological word hilaskomai in 18:13 must be intentional and significant. The most natural explanation appears to be that the two men are watching the atonement sacrifice in the temple. The tax collector longs that it might be for him.” See A Study Guide for Fifteen Lectures on the Parables of Jesus, p. 36.

The New (Old) Law

Icon of Cain and Abel

10th week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

Matthew 5:20-26

Is Jesus’ New Law easier or harder? Has the Old Law been “reduced” to love of God and love of neighbor?

The Old Law said, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17; 16:18).

Jesus said, “whoever is angry with his brother” or insults his brother is at the brink of Gehenna.

In the Old Law, gifts were brought to the altar as a matter of obligation, custom, and law. Once the deed was done, the worshipper felt scot-free: “I fulfilled my Sabbath obligation. I am in good standing before God.”

Jesus said, “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Temple worship had become institutionalized to the point that religion was taken for granted. The spirit and aim of religion had become muddled in the midst of rituals and obligations. Jesus’ injunction to examine the heart was not entirely new. Scripture records that the first son of Adam offered his gift with an angry heart and killed his younger brother, whose gift was more pleasing, out of envy.

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Ritual was already becoming external routine after Adam’s expulsion from paradise. Intimate friendship with God, the norm in paradise, was becoming a faded memory. The idea of God as “Father” would sound entirely foreign and alien to the children of Adam centuries later.

From the very beginning, the true value of religion lay in the heart of the giver rather than in the substance or quantity of the gift (wheat, sheep, or two mites). 

History has proven that nothing is more difficult than restoring a pure heart, the original image of God stamped within: “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

The Voice that told Cain to “master” himself became flesh and offered the first pure and perfect sacrifice after the expulsion. He has sent us the Holy Spirit from the Father to convict our hearts to do likewise.


No Life Without Sacrifice

In this Sunday’s gospel (Mark 10,35-45) James and John, two of his disciples, want something from Jesus; they want the power and position they believe he can give them. “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”

But they want glory without any cost. Grant it and it’s ours, they say to him. They’re looking for an easy way to get something good. Jesus says they want glory “without drinking the cup,” a life without struggle, effort and suffering. But there’s no life without sacrifice.

You can’t live without sacrifice. You can’t have it all and you can’t have it easily. That applies to every level of life.

We have to sacrifice for our own good. For example, we can’t be healthy without adopting a healthy life style, something often hard to do.

We make sacrifices for others, and that’s often hard to do. Parents sacrifice for children; children for parents. Sacrifice for strangers–that’s very hard. Soldiers have  to be ready to give up their lives for their country. The ultimate sacrifice, we say.

Jesus described his own death on the Cross as a sacrifice. That sacrifice was the culmination of a life given for others.

Sacrifice has a holy dimension we may forget.  We remember that dimension at Mass, where we use the word frequently. Sacrifice comes from    two latin words that mean “doing something holy.” If  what we do is good, for ourselves, for others, for our world, we are brought  to God through it, and God blesses our efforts, our struggles and the suffering what we have done entails.

“We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ your Son,

Through him we ask you to accept and bless these gifts we offer you in sacrifice”

What are the gifts we offer to God in sacrifice? Yes, they’re the gifts  of his Son, who offered himself to his Father once on the Cross and now becomes our offering to God who blesses us through him.

But they’re our gifts too, our sacrifices, many and varied as they are, that are joined to his and they bring down God’s blessings on us and on our world.

Let’s keep our sacrifices holy.

The Prayer of Abel

“Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as you once accepted the gifts of your servant Abel.” (1st Eucharistic Prayer)

In a homily, St. Ambrose explains why God accepted Abel’s gifts and not Cain’s. His gifts were a prayer from his heart.

He brought them to God prompted by the same gratitude that caused the Samaritan to give thanks to Jesus after being cured of leprosy. Gratitude is always at the heart of the Eucharist.

Abel’s gifts were the result of true prayer, according to Ambrose, who summarizes what true prayer is: “Jesus told us to pray urgently and often, so that our prayers should not be long and tedious but short, earnest and frequent. Long elaborate prayers overflow with pointless phrases, and long gaps between prayers eventually stretch out into complete neglect.

Next he advises that when you ask forgiveness for yourself then you must take special care to grant it also to others. In that way your action can add its voice to yours as you pray. The apostle also teaches that when you pray you must be free from anger and from disagreement with anyone, so that your prayer is not disturbed or broken into.

The apostle teaches us to pray anywhere, while the Saviour says Go into your room – but you must understand that this “room” is not the room with four walls that confines your body when you are in it, but the secret space within you in which your thoughts are enclosed and where your sensations arrive. That is your prayer-room, always with you wherever you are, always secret wherever you are, with your only witness being God.

Above all, you must pray for the whole people: that is, for the whole body, for every part of your mother the Church, whose distinguishing feature is mutual love. If you ask for something for yourself then you will be praying for yourself only – and you must remember that more grace comes to one who prays for others than to any ordinary sinner. If each person prays for all people, then all people are effectively praying for each.

In conclusion, if you ask for something for yourself alone, you will be the only one asking for it; but if you ask for benefits for all, all in their turn will be asking for them for you. For you are in fact one of the “all.” Thus it is a great reward, as each person’s prayers acquire the weight of the prayers of everyone. There is nothing presumptuous about thinking like this: on the contrary, it is a sign of greater humility and more abundant fruitfulness.”