Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 29
Our Lord Encourages Us Today to Become His Voice in a World Which No Longer Wishes to Listen to His Truth; He Encourages Us Today to Become His Heart in a World Which Chooses to No Longer Love Selflessly.
We read in today’s Gospel our Lord teaching the crowds as well as the Pharisees and scribes who were standing nearby, “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”
Many years ago, I believe it was in the 1980’s, my late wife and I knew this couple, about the same age as we were. The husband had a good job working for a reputable company. And his wife was a “stay-at-home mom” – a loving mother and a good housewife.
They lived in a modest home and always enjoyed doing things together with their teenage son as a family. If one were to view this family from the outside, not really knowing them personally, one might say that they were the ideal family you would find on one of the early TV shows in the 50’s and 60’s, such as “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best”.
But appearances can oftentimes be very deceiving. The reality was far different than one would perceive by just looking at them.
Yes, they loved each other. Yes, they enjoyed spending quality time together. But, in reality, there’s was a life of complete selfishness. Materialism and secularistic pleasures were their gods. And they would profess their belief that one should live each day to the fullest regarding personal desires and pleasures.
And they passed this way of thinking and behavior on to their teenage son – which, unfortunately, contributed in a very negative way to his own moral development, during a time in any teenager’s life which can oftentimes become fraught with all sorts of confusing thoughts and feelings.
Sadly, as a consequence of the parents’ beliefs and lifestyle, their son began to accept and revel in the idea that personal gratification in any form was his ultimate goal – his only happiness. He embraced the philosophy that, if his parents believed in it, then it must be okay.
But Jesus is reminding us today that what we really become, who we really are as a people of God, results from what wells up from within our hearts, what is really within us at the core of our very being.
Our Lord was first responding to a particular point regarding human dietary laws and ritual defilement of His time for Judaism. But Jesus takes these traditions of ritual purification and places them in context of the Kingdom of God where these arbitrary rules have no real meaning.
And He declares that moral defilement is the only cause of uncleanness – that it was not about the foods that a person eats or the cleanliness of one’s hands that would make one impure, rather the notions and inclinations which emanate from within the heart!
“From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder…” – and all the other evils He lists which come from within which defile us. On the contrary, that which comes from the heart and which is good and holy makes us righteous and pleasing in the sight of God.
I remember having many discussions with this couple about what the effects of their lifestyle were having on their young son. Sadly, they would even turn some of these discussions into heated debates, for they could not accept the Judeo-Christian concept of morality – a behavior, a way of life, which was based both on religious principles and a code of conduct for the common good of society.
In their selfish thinking, whereby they placed themselves at the center of importance as a result of their public stand on secularistic thinking, their own son was being drawn into the errors of their way of life.
And sadly, their son would continue to perpetuate the errors of, what many of our popes have described as, moral and theological relativism – a way of thinking and a way of acting which denies Divine Truth and replaces it with a personalized, secular truth – a truth which is based upon a philosophy of self-centered ego, self-importance and self-gratification.
However, for those who embrace the Judeo-Christian ethics of moral conduct in our daily lives, Divine Truth is the one and only absolute which can truly guide us in our day-to-day activities – in the way we think, in the words we speak to each other, and in our interactions with our fellow man!
And in today’s Gospel, Christ is teaching us what the scribes and Pharisees were not able to understand. After reading their hearts and calling them hypocrites, He quotes to them a verse from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”
The scribes and the Pharisees, leaders within the Jewish community, were so consumed with every letter and detail of the Mosaic Law and human concepts of the Law which were added later – their vision of the Law being so narrow and legalistic – that they failed to discern the mind and the will of God within the Law!
They failed to understand the fact that, even though the Law itself was good, it was not intended to become an obstacle, a barrier preventing people from knowing, loving and serving God with their hearts.
Rather, it was to become a “roadmap”, if you will. The Mosaic Law was created to show God’s children the pathway, guiding His children into a personal relationship and a better understanding of who God is and what He expects from each of His children.
As Moses proclaimed in our First Reading, “In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it…Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations…”
God’s Laws and Commandments are not meant to become an obstacle to our salvation; rather, they are meant to lead us on the path to eternal life!
During the three years which Jesus walked throughout Israel proclaiming God’s Truth, there were many instances in which He rebuked the Jewish authorities for their lack of compassion and understanding when it came to feeding the spiritual hunger which the Jewish people were feeling!
Today’s Gospel was one of those times. And throughout the two thousand years since the days that the Son of God physically walked the face of the Earth with His disciples, the Magisterium, the teaching authority of our Holy Church, has been interpreting and educating the faithful on the teachings of Christ and His Apostles.
And when we read from James’ Epistle, today is one of those days.
From the moment that you and I attained the age of reason, we have been listening to the teachings of our faith. We have been taught that our God is a God of Love. We have been taught that we are to love our God with all of our heart, with our entire mind and soul, and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
And we are taught that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Today, James tells us, “Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the word and not hearers only…”
And to slightly paraphrase his last statement today, he goes on to say, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for [one another]…and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
The purpose that Christ came into this world was that WE “…might not perish but might have eternal life” in His Name.
The challenge for you and me today is to keep ourselves from being defiled by the world and by all that comes from within us. To do this means that we are to be the extension of Christ Himself to each other – the extension of His voice, His Heart, His hands and especially His compassionate Love.
We cannot do this by just sitting on our hands and doing nothing. As Saint James says, we are to be “doers of the word.” Following Christ is not difficult. Following His way of Love and Mercy is not complicated. But what it does entail is that we may have to leave our comfort zone at times. What it does mean is that we may have to bear a cross in fulfilling God’s will for us.
And Christ Himself once said, as words of encouragement for those who fear the cross, “…whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”
He encourages us today to become His voice in a world which no longer wishes to listen to His Truth. He encourages us today to become His Heart in a world which chooses to no longer love selflessly. And He encourages us today to become His hands and His feet in accomplishing His will for the sake of His Kingdom here on Earth.
May the God who created us, the God who redeemed us, the God who constantly sanctifies us with His Love strengthen and nourish our faith so that we may always choose to love what is good and reject what is evil, and that He may sustain us to always be “doers” of His Word and not just listeners only.
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Moses said to the people…In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it…Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and discernment in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and discerning people.’” (Deuteronomy 4:2, 6)
- “We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law, with the understanding that law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly, the godless and sinful, the unholy and profane…” (1 Timothy 1:8-9)
- “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
- “[Jesus] summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” (Mark 7:14-15)
- “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” (Mark 7:21-23)
- “Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” (James 1:21-22)
- “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
- “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Prayer for the Day
“Jesus, tender and loving Lamb of God,Anonymous
Utmost Sacrifice of all sacrifices,
Your Glory is reverberated in the highest.
“Being preoccupied with my own well-being,
You chose to self-sacrifice Yourself,
Setting aside all Your personal glories,
For Your Birth and Death taught us true value,
The value of loving without counting the cost.
“I thank You Lord Jesus for Your acts of Love!
Your actions have drawn me closer to You,
Guiding Me to live as You lived, to love as You loved.
“Teach me to model in smaller things,
To sacrifice in order to help others,
Guiding my soul to endure abstinence,
So that my offerings may bring You joy.
Lamb of God, I thank You endlessly! Amen.”