Sermon: Wednesday in Holy Week

It was Vincent Setterholm who put together a flowchart on how to solve problems with your ox according to the Mosaic Law. This is the chart ( The chart begins by asking, “Was the ox harmed?” Then Mr. Setterholm takes us through several “Yes/No” scenarios according to the Law.

He does this for every Law concerning the ox, one of which includes the question, “Did the ox gore someone to death.” If “Yes,” then there are questions about whether or not the ox has gored someone before, did the owner know, was the owner warned, all the way down to whether or not the person gored to death was a citizen or a slave. If a citizen, then there will be punishment, up to the stoning of the owner of the ox; however, if the person gored to death was a slave, see Leviticus 21:32: If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall pay to the slaveowner thirty pieces of silver, which isn’t very much money.

To prove that it’s not much, thirty pieces of silver comes up again in the Book of the Prophet Zechariah. At one point, as an example of his ministry, he compares himself to a shepherd, who after his service is only paid thirty pieces of silver. Zechariah reports, “The Lord said to me, ‘Throw it into the treasury—this lordly price at which I was valued by them.’” He was being sarcastic when he referred to it as a “lordly price.” Thirty pieces of silver for the work performed was such an insult that it wasn’t even worth keeping.

We are all familiar with the last time thirty pieces of silver is mentioned in Scripture – from Matthew’s Gospel: Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray Jesus to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver.

Today, Jesus said to Judas, “Do quickly what you are going to do,” and he did. For the price of a slave gored by a bull, for an amount deemed unworthy to keep even by a shepherd (one of the lowest of all positions), Judas betrayed Jesus and turned him over to the authorities.

Why would Judas do such a thing? Jesus did not give him what he wanted, what he thought he needed, what he thought he deserved, so he gave up God for a paltry earthly reward, which unfortunately seems to be a human trait. Adam and Eve gave up paradise for bite of fruit. Lot’s wife gave up her life for one more look back (turned into a pillar of salt). Esau gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew. David gave up his integrity for a pretty girl. All these little things. All these thirty pieces of silver.

When considering our “little” sins and small vices, we often don’t see them as harming anyone, but they are. We are harming ourselves.

St. Josemaría Escrivá said, “Have you ever stopped to consider the enormous sum that many ‘littles’ can come to?” That can be a positive, because by faithfully attending to the little things in our lives, we are doing the will of God, but it can also be a negative, because one little thing done wrong, can bring down every good work.

I’m not really concerned that any of you are planning to go out and commit some great and heinous sin, but we must all be vigilant in watching over ourselves to insure that we don’t stumble over thirty pieces of silver.

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