The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was originally founded in England in 1824? The society would have had a field day in biblical times! Even when Jesus was on earth, goats still had their value as sin offerings. The unlucky creatures were brought to the temple and sacrificed to the Lord as public signs of repentance. Each person who made the offering would lay his hand on the goat’s head at the exact time of slaughter, and his sins were atoned for! The result was that the goat had become a scapegoat because it had taken the ‘blame’ of the person on itself. Over the years I would have needed a fair number of goats!

Now take a look at the closing verses of

TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [HEBREWS 10: 11 – 14. 18]….. “for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”

In simple terms, Jesus – Lord and Christ – became our scapegoat. More importantly, our sins – the sins of all humankind –

MADE HIM the scapegoat. However, unlike the goats. he went willingly and freely to the slaughter, and it cost us nothing. Saint Paul makes two comments confirming this fact: (i) “Christ Jesus …who sacrificed himself to win freedom for all mankind” {1 Timothy 2: 5}, and (ii) “our Lord Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself for our sins, to rescue us” {Galatians 1: 4}. If we bear this in mind there are phrases in TODAY’S PSALM [16] which have special meaning … “for in you I take refuge … my portion and cup …. you yourself who secure my lot … you will not abandon my soul … nor let (me) see corruption.”

So, now we return to our quotation from the New Testament extract. It is so important for us to accept that we have already been sanctified and perfected for all time. This is why Saint Paul, in so many of his letters refers to his readers as

SAINTS! We are ‘saints’ already but at the same time we are saints-in-the-making. It is in this ‘making of ourselves’ that the stuff of discipleship is grown and, as our Psalm tells us, we rest in hope because we take refuge in him who preserves us.

This should not be misinterpreted in any way as meaning or indicating that we do not remain and are sinners who need to accept responsibility for our failures in Gospel living. However, we must accept the challenge and call to repentance, conversion and ongoing, personal, renewal. We do not ignore our sins but face them with the courage that arises from the fact (as expressed in our Psalm) that the Lord is always before us (and) we rest in hope. The scapegoats of old did not actually achieve anything because the person making the offering had to achieve conversion and renewal on his own.

In fact the poor animal slaughtered was indeed a ‘silly old goat’ which actually did not DO anything. The Lord Jesus Christ has done something basic. What he did he continues to do.

{read again our original quotation from Hebrews}

What

HE continues to do, so must we. It is in and through our continuation that we his “people shall be delivered” and so our “name(s) shall be found written in the book.” {see our Old Testament reading – DANIEL 12: 1 – 3}

This week I have focussed almost entirely on the New Testament reading.

WHY? Because this coming Sunday we celebrate CHRIST THE KING. This reflection, therefore, should provide a relatively incisive understanding why in fact the Lord is indeed KING! We “will see him coming with great power and glory, and … he will gather his elect from the four winds.” {see today’s Gospel – MARK 13: 24 – 32}

A final thought comes to us from Matthew’s description of the last judgement

{25: 11 – 46}. There we read that the Lord separates the sheep from the goats. However, we must always know that we are, already, the sheep of his pasture.

We must never become silly old goats nor seek a scapegoat for our own failures and sin.

 

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