Take This Goat

Ever since the description of their separation from the sheep, goats have gotten a bad rap, and perhaps justly so. Goats have a tendency to destroy everything in their path. Tearing up the ground as they eat the grass, they’ll eat anything in front of them: oats, rose bushes, or clothes hanging out to dry. Compared to their sheep counterpart, they’re bossier, more stubborn, and smell much worse while alive and while being cooked. Yet in Exodus, when the Passover instructions are being given, God tells his people that they may take from either the sheep or the goats. Long before the goat got the stamp of demonic or wicked, it was considered clean, even if not ideal.

A local sage at the Dominican House of Studies says that the sheep is an ideal sacrifice, for one, because it’s simply a preferred animal to have around. It’s naturally more docile, has wool that can be collected over and over, and acts as a natural lawn-mower, delicately clipping the grass it eats.

So why would the Lord accept a goat? Perhaps because he knows that circumstances could have been such that the “preferred” wasn’t possible. (Note Joseph and Mary presenting the poor offering of doves in the Temple.) It’s fitting, then, to consider whether we may be more akin to the goat sacrifice at times.

We usually like to look back at what our efforts and personal work ethic have accomplished. We tell St. Paul he was wrong to suggest that God “chose the weak to shame the strong.” No, Paul, just look at how strong I am and how much I’ve done!

Of course, if ten seconds of silence settle on my mind, I’ll realize how I all too often have the tendency to mess things up while acquiring what’s good for myself. I’m more stubborn than I’d like to admit. In a sense, considering what I bring to the table—the life that I present as a sacrifice—then I have to admit that I “smell.” It’s only in the Lord’s goodness and understanding that I am able to give my less-than-preferred, less-than-spotless life into his providential guidance for the kingdom.

The goat doesn’t cease being a goat as it’s led to the altar. If we live our lives as a school of perfection, brought about by charity and grace in gradual steps, we don’t have to be obliterated and remade before God stretches himself to look upon us. Our faults are forgiven time and again by his mercy, our nature is perfected by his grace, and our imperfect baggage can be used by God to show just how merciful, powerful, and good he is.

As the Lord accepted doves and goats in the Old Law, so he accepts our lives as sacrifices now in the New. No matter what we bring, the point is that we bring it all. The Israelites didn’t sacrifice the sheep’s wool, they sacrificed the whole sheep. A death occurred, however, and so it is with us. Provided we die to ourselves, the goats and sheep among us, we surrender ourselves to him who makes use of us as he sees fit.

Thank God for his understanding, then, and his willingness to take what may not be preferred and to use it for his good. If the goat can become a sacrifice, then I can become a saint.

Lord, take this goat.

Image: Goat

You May Also Enjoy:

On Living Large Notes for preaching re: Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul, June 29th: Step 1. Summarize/repeat Gospel passage. Step 2. Note: Peter wasn’t always the Pope. Recount various Petrine foot-in-mouth episodes. (NB: Great potential for laughs/comic relief.) Step 3. Note: Peter is not so different from us, etc. Encourage listeners to relate and identify. Step 4. Point out that, just as with Peter, God has a plan for each of us despite our own shortcom...
Professing Vows I would wager that Chapter 7 in the Book of Numbers is not high on the prayerful reading list for those preparing for marriage or religious vows. This rather dry chapter describes the offerings of the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel when Moses was anointing, consecrating, and dedicating the altar at Mount Sinai. The one who presented his offering on the first day was Nahshon, son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah. His offering consisted...
The Four Loves In the last chapter of the last gospel (Jn 21), there is something strange going on. It is the scene where Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me,” to repair the three times he betrayed him. What is lesser known is that they’re using two different words for “love.” Jesus asks Peter if he has agape for him, and Peter says he has philia for Christ. Agape is that kind of selfless love shown on the cross. It’s the love of bridegroom for bride, ...
Heart and Sacrifice Why sacrifice? Imagine yourself on a pilgrimage. Not to Lourdes or Fatima, but wandering in the Sinai desert en route to the promised land of Canaan. You’re told by Moses and company that the land you’re aiming for is a great land, one flowing with milk, honey, and other delights. Yet as good as the goal sounds, it’s hard to think of the end when your stops along the way include desert-fatigue and the sword of Amalek. The question might arise,...
Br. John Thomas Fisher, O.P.

Written by:

Br. John Thomas Fisher grew up in Easley, SC. After becoming a Catholic ​in high school, he studied philosophy and French at the University of South Carolina. Upon graduating, he worked at a bookstore and church doing maintenance for a year before entering the Order in 2013. Brother John Thomas first became acquainted with the Dominicans during a trip in college to Rome. On DominicanFriars.org