Thursday's Readings

Judges is not an easy book to enjoy, yet it is in the Bible. Today we have
one of the most tragic stories ever told--a case where a foolish vow is
made to the false image of God that a warrior named Jephthah had. Phyllis
Trible has this as one of several "Texts of Terror" in her book with that
title. It combines a vow to have the first one sacrificed who comes out of
his home to God if God will give him victory over the Ammonites. Going to
the Jewish Study Bible one has this helpful insight::"In practice the brief
account of the war is incorporated within the account of the vow, depicted
in detail and in a way that emphasizes the tragedy of the fateful,
irreversible error. Biblical literature struggles with the norm of offering
human sacrifices, which was apparently practiced throughout the First
Temple period ( II Kings 21:6; 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31,etc. Hence this
incident shows Jephthah in a negative light. Jephthah is genealogically
speaking, a marginal person both in ancestry and in his progeny." (Jewish
Study Bible, p.537). Unfortunately, human images of God even in the Bible
are far from the loving God our Creator is who always wants us to choose
life over death, good over evil. Our human images of God are tarnished
whenever they present a God of revenge, warfare, and demanding the lives of
innocent peoples. We see ourselves in these texts of terror maybe not to
the same depth of horror but in the failings we continually make through
bad choices, greed, and war. Often the Bible is more a history of ourselves
than a theology or study of God. Through the many wars and acts of
terrorism many innocent lives are wiped out sometimes even in the name of
religion. Self destruction to kill others is seen as martyrdom while in
our own cities there is child trafficking, sexual abuse of children and
minors, rapes, and physical abuse of spouses. This is part of our daily
news. We have our own texts of terror in front of us at the breakfast

In relief we turn to the parable of the wedding which continues to
emphasize Matthew's concern for his divided Church of Jewish and Gentile
converts. The parable depicts both the Jewish leaders and then at the end
adds the incident of one who is not faithful to the call of baptism and is
judged with the same fate as the first. We learn that through our
baptismal commitment we need to respond to Jesus faithfully and worthily
then we are part of the wedding banquet that the Lord has prepared for us.