Samuel said to Saul: “Stop! Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” Saul replied, “Speak!” Samuel then said: “Though little in your own esteem, are you not leader of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king of Israel and sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and put the sinful Amalekites under a ban of destruction. Fight against them until you have exterminated them.’ Why then have you disobeyed the LORD? You have pounced on the spoil, thus displeasing the LORD.”
Saul answered Samuel: “I did indeed obey the LORD and fulfill the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought back Agag, and I have destroyed Amalek under the ban. But from the spoil the men took sheep and oxen, the best of what had been banned, to sacrifice to the LORD their God in Gilgal.”
But Samuel said: “Does the LORD so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the LORD? Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams. For a sin like divination is rebellion, and presumption is the crime of idolatry. Because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he, too, has rejected you as ruler.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
In today’s first reading we hear Samuel admonishing Saul, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience to the voice of the Lord?” Samuel is essentially saying, “Look, God is much more about relationship than about these trivial sacrifices. You cannot earn God’s love with sacrifices.” It is not about what we can give to God; rather, it is about how we can be in relationship with God. That is an important distinction, for it speaks to a different aspect of God. We love a God who desperately wants to know us and to love us. What a gift! Moreover, Samuel indicates that God desires “obedience.” In the New Testament, Jesus is the manifestation of this reality as we see that obedience to God takes the form of compassion, love, care for the poor, and a willingness to suffer for the greater good. This is a love that is freely given, without conditions.
—Matt Kemper is the Director of Community Service at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati.Prayer
All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example. What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side? Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near.
—St. Teresa of Avila