"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

The Radicalness of God’s Surrendering Love

Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini "Jephthah and his Daughter"

he first reading and the gospel are two stories that both end in tragedy. First is about the tragic story of the human sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter. It reminds us of the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. The so called human sacrifice was being practiced in Israel right up to the time of the Exile as part of a ritual to appease gods or a human ruler. In the Iliad, King Agamemnon sacrificed his own daughter Iphigenia to obtain favorable winds as they prepare for the sack of Troy. The tragedy in Judges 11:29-39 begins when Jephthah makes a vow to the Lord. “If you deliver the Ammonites into my power,” he says, “whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the Lord. I shall offer him up as a burnt offering.” True enough Jephthah wins the war and when he returns to his house in Mizpah, it is his daughter who comes rushing forth dancing while playing the tambourines. She is an only child. When he sees her, he rends his garments and says, “Alas, daughter, you have struck me down and brought calamity upon me. For I have made a vow to the Lord and I cannot retract.” The tragedy escalates because the daughter submits to his father’s vow which must be kept at whatever cost. She just asks for one condition that she be allowed to wander in the mountains with her friends to mourn her virginity. At the end of the two months she returns to her father. There is no angel to stop Jephthah this time when he offers her as an “olah,” i.e. a burnt sacrifice to Yahweh, just as he has vowed.
The second tragedy is from our Gospel—Matthew 22:1-14. Though it is just a parable, it is a true tragic story on the part of the prophets of the Jewish people. They are like the servants sent by the king, who stands for God to some extent, to summon the guests to his son’s wedding. All those on the guest list snubbed the king’s invitation. Who were these servant prophets? At first glance all of them look the same because they were all concerned about the same realities. The genuine prophets called on the Israelites to remember the God who saved them and who made a covenant with them. They are God’s mouthpieces and ambassadors especially when the people of Israel needed awakening, reminding and disciplining. God and the chosen people are joined together after this jealous God declared "I will be your God and you will be my people." Such is their covenantal relationship and just like in any relationship there is a constant communication for the relationship to endure. God often selected selfless "influencers," like some modern day influencers, to prophesy or to communicate a message on God’s behalf. They were God’s social media then. God put his own words into their mouths (Is 6:6: Ez 3:1-4; Jer 1:9). The genuine prophets did not have interest in power, money, or any approval but God’s. They saw, heard and spoke nothing but God’s word. The Israelite nation was expected to listen to these prophets—or else there will be unavoidable consequences. The harsh predictions they made became the same reasons that they were persecuted, exiled and even put to death. The servants were brutally maltreated when the message they brought was only to invite guests. The king was forgiving after the first sending. So he sends another set of servants who also were maltreated and killed like the first.

How do you think the king would react? What would be his next move? There is a parallel parable in Matthew—the parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20:1-16)—where the landlord sends someone for the third time. But he is no longer just a servant. He sends his own son who is the heir of the vineyard. This is the radical mission of Christ.

The moral of the first two tragic stories is to demonstrate how radical God’s sacrifice of his own Son, Jesus Christ, is like. Just like Jephtah who rent his garments upon seeing his only daughter rushing to welcome his father at the door, God went against his own will to offer us his own beloved Son. The prophets were God’s own cherished friends too. He was deeply devastated, not only once, but several times when each prophet that he sent got maltreated and killed. All these earlier sacrifices are only a faint echo though of what God will do to sacrifice and radically surrender. The whole story of God’s plan of salvation from Genesis to Revelation is about the theme of how far God’s love could go and about the deepest level of his surrendering love. “This is my Son, my Beloved” (Mark 9:7) is reminiscent of what Jephthah must have lamented too: “My only daughter, my beloved.” The radicalness of surrender is the radicalness of love and devotion to God. We can renew and deepen our dedication to Him which will always be a faint echo of God's dedication, devotion and surrendering love. Like Jephthah and the prophets may we grab every opportunity to surrender something that is meaningful to us along our pilgrim path on earth. Amen Fr JM Manzano SJ


  1. Wow! Very Inspiring homilee... The word "radical" I always find striking every time I encounter it. Too strong for me but it is the invitation to get rooted in His love and deepen my love for him not only in thoughts and words but most importantly in actions which I find myself lacking from time to time. Not easy but worth trying with His grace. Thank you Fr. JM!

  2. Thank you for the sharing on what struck you... the same here, that radical is like a prick of one's soul telling me how God is just beyond expectation, Deus semper maior... God always more! GBU!


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