COVENANT AND SACRIFICE (2)
[In the Old Testament God’s covenant with his people, mediated by Abraham, Moses, and David] is always accompanied by sacrifice. Israelite priests would carry on their sacrificial practice until the second temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD70. [T]hrough the slaughter of beasts and the smoke of holocausts, they massively demonstrated in a symbolic manner, that the communion and life that Yahweh desired for his people would be made possible by an interior sacrifice, a pouring out of the self.
[But] though covenant and sacrifice were defining elements of ancient Israelite religion, there is, throughout the biblical period, a nagging sense that the covenant has never been truly fulfilled and sacrifice never completely efficacious. Speaking the words of Yahweh, Isaiah says, “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings” (Isa. 1:11). Why would the God who demanded sacrifice now seem so indifferent, even hostile to it? What annoys Yahweh is not sacrifice in itself but sacrifice that has become divorced from the real work of compassion and justice, from the demands of the covenant. Such sacrifice has devolved into an empty symbol.
The prophet Jeremiah…expresses Yahweh’s own pledge that he himself would one day fulfill the covenant and forgive the sins of the people… Jeremiah dreams that one day, through Yahweh’s own direct intervention, a faithful Israel will emerge, a people who have a heart for the Lord, who consider the law not an external imposition, but a joy.
How will this renewal take place?… [Let us turn to the book of the prophet Isaiah],…to a figure called the “servant” of the Lord who.…”shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high” (Isa. 52:13). [He is not] a splendid warrior… Instead…”He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering” (Isa. 53:3). This “suffering servant” is presented, in short, as a sacrificial figure, one who will, on behalf of the entire nation, offer himself for the sins of the many.
Robert Barron, Eucharist, (2021)
©Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, Park Ridge, IL