OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE
Before we go looking for sacrifices that we think will please God we're better off responding to the immediate needs of our family, our friends and those we work with daily.
The background of today's first reading is that King Saul has been commanded by God to wage a holy war against the Amalekites. Nothing of their possessions are to be spared. But King Saul makes the mistake of putting his judgment above that of God. With good intentions, but in disobedience, Saul does not destroy the best of the sheep and oxen in order to sacrifice them to God.
God's reaction through Samuel, His prophet, is swift and sure. He declares that "obedience is better than sacrifice" (1 Sm 15:22). Absolute dedication to God's will is preferred to any merely external act of faith or religion.
In today's Gospel of Mark, Jesus speaks out against a form of fasting that has become nothing more than an external act devoid of any real devotion to God. Jesus insists that this old form of religion has to go and must be replaced with the worship of God which comes from the heart. This is confirmed later in the Gospel when Jesus says, "No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins" (Mk 2:22).
Obedience often brings to our minds a picture of submission to some authority - to a person in charge. That may be the case in some circumstances but more often than not for most of us, it will mean responding to the demands of our immediate environment. We may be called upon to assist the people with whom we are closely linked. For example, responding to our friends who are in need of help, offering assistance to the elderly or joining a community effort to do something that is meaningful. Before we go looking for sacrifices that we think will please God we're better off responding to the immediate needs of our family, our friends and those we work with daily.
May we acclaim today, loud and clear, the words from the Responsorial Psalm, "To the upright I will show the saving power of God" (Ps 50:23b).