In these few remaining days of Advent, I read and re-read the words of St. Paul about the futility of sacrifice and oblation or offering to God. First, he quotes the words of Christ himself:
You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,…
And then Paul explains them, carefully. Necessarily, because neither the words nor the concept make any sense in this world filled with extremes. Where we see zealots dying for their faith and athletes insisting that extreme workouts are essential while entrepreneurs boast about their 90 hour work weeks. The message is consistent and clear; nothing is achieved without sacrifice. And Christmas is all about oblation-offerings, the right and best present for our loved ones.
Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.
Is there anything more difficult? Is there anything more impossible?
Excited about the approach of this season I love, I had great plans for this Advent. Many more hours of holy reading. And time spent merely pondering her: Mary, this most extraordinary girl, faced with the impossible, the absurd, merely replies ‘Behold the handmaiden of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.’ But now, only five days are left and my efforts have been paltry, embarrassing. So often this happens, I suspect not only to me.
And so the Apostle’s words are comforting on this fourth Sunday of Advent. Yet, more than consoling, when I read them for the fifth and sixth time, it is as if Paul is saying, “Don’t you get it?” “Don’t you see that even if you had spent all my waking time during the 960 hours of Advent, you’re asking the wrong question? Would the Lord love me more than when I am at my worst? Lazy, dull, self-absorbed, wholly unlovable?
Absurd, impossible. Such is our faith.
….or since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,…