Reflection on 1 Samuel 2:12-17, On Liturgical Abuse

“12 Now the sons of Heli were children of Belial, not knowing the Lord, 13 Nor the office of the priests to the people: but whosoever had offered a sacrifice, the servant of the priest came, while the flesh was in boiling, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand, 14 And thrust it into the kettle, or into the caldron, or into the pot, or into the pan: and all that the fleshhook brought up, the priest took to himself. Thus did they to all Israel that came to Silo. 15 Also before they burnt the fat, the servant of the priest came, and said to the man that sacrificed: Give me flesh to boil for the priest: for I will not take of thee sodden flesh, but raw. 16 And he that sacrificed said to him: Let the fat first be burnt to day according to the custom, and then take as much as thy soul desireth. But he answered and said to him: Not so: but thou shalt give it me now, or else I will take it by force. 17 Wherefore the sin of the young men was exceeding great before the Lord: because they withdrew men from the sacrifice of the Lord.” (1 Sam. 2:12-17)

The sons of Eli were corrupt priests who changed parts of God’s liturgy and to such an extent that it “withdrew men from the sacrifice of the Lord” (v. 17). Some priests today are not unlike the sons of Eli who corrupted the liturgy of the Old Testament and scandalized many of the faithful. Whenever a priest changes the liturgy to his own liking – by deliberately adding, omitting or modifying words, gestures and rituals – one can be assured the priest ministers in the spirit of the sons of Eli. The Second Vatican Council rightly intended to prevent such a grievous abuse by stating that “no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” (Sacrosanctum Concilium). Yet many priests still arrogantly usurp power against the wisdom of Holy Mother Church by changing the liturgy, as the sons of Eli arrogantly changed the liturgy given to them by Moses. Surely the Lord is not pleased with such behavior, especially when it scandalizes the faithful. How many of the laity have been so scandalized by liturgical abuse that they were driven away from the Church into the bosom of a harlot, that is, into communions outside of the Catholic Church? Later in the chapter, the Lord is said to have desired to put the sons of Eli to death because of their sins. If the Lord responded with such a reaction in the Old Covenant sacrifices of animals, how much more will the Lord respond in judgment against those priests who corrupt the sacrifice of His precious Only Begotten Son?

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One response to “Reflection on 1 Samuel 2:12-17, On Liturgical Abuse

  1. I recall once reading in a sacristy “Celebrate every Mass as if it is your first or your last.” Departure from that healthy timidity lends to creativity and self-centered worship, much as what happened with the sons of Eli.

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