Sunday, August 29
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Roman Ordinary calendar
Book of Deuteronomy 4,1-2.6-8.
Moses spoke to the people and said: “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
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, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’
For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”
He who walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
and slanders not with his tongue.
Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
By whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
One who does these things
shall never be disturbed.
Letter of James 1,17-18.21b-22.27.
all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
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.
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.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 7,1-8.14-15.21-23.
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.)
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘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.’
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He 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.”
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.”
The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round him, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture: This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations. You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’
And he said to them, ‘How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said: Do your duty to your father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death. But you say, If a man says to his father or mother: Anything I have that I might have used to help you is Corban (that is, dedicated to God), then he is forbidden from that moment to do anything for his father or mother. In this way you make God’s word null and void for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this.’
He called the people to him again and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’ When he had gone back into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Do you not understand either? Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.) And he went on, ‘It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’
Christ the Lord
Once again Jesus opposes the Pharisees, correcting their distorted doctrine privately and publicly. His confidence in confronting men who had the power to condemn him to death reveals the seriousness of his claims. The people of Israel could not follow both Jesus and the Pharisees; it became clearer by the day that Christ was demanding an undivided allegiance. His teachings were not optional addenda; he called for a total commitment. Such was Jesus then, and so he is now: the Lord, not the Consultant.
Christ the Teacher
God wants our hearts. It is quite possible to appear perfectly Christian on the outside – going to Mass, avoiding drunkenness and obviously lewd behavior, saying prayers – while giving in to evil thoughts and entertaining selfish desires over and over again on the inside. That kind of divided life cannot endure for long. Where our hearts are, there our treasure is, as our Lord says elsewhere in the Gospels (cf. Matthew 6:21). We can never be satisfied with merely exterior piety, and we can never consider ourselves superior to others just because our sins are less visible. The heart that loves is never satisfied with how much it can do for its beloved; if we find ourselves smug in our life of faith, like the Pharisees, chances are we’re running low on love.
Christ the Friend
Sometimes we forget how frequently and explicitly Jesus spoke of evil and sin. He was (and is) full of mercy, but that’s because we need his mercy. A good friend tells us when we’re in the wrong; only wolves in sheep’s clothing console the sinner in his sin. Because Christ is so demanding with us, because he tells us directly how much we need to change our lives, we can trust that he has our best welfare in mind. He wants to be with us in heaven, so he sternly warns us against everything that could lure us in the opposite direction.
Most of all, however, he wants us to avoid the double life that the Pharisees are living. They are full of selfishness on the inside, even while they appear to be model Jews on the outside. In this passage, Jesus exhorts the Pharisees, showing that he understands perfectly their shrewd tactics for maintaining appearances while simultaneously indulging their inordinate desires – pretending to commit their property to the Temple, for instance, so that while they maintain use of it they still have a good excuse for not letting others benefit from it at their inconvenience. He also exhorts the people under the Pharisee’s leadership. This shows that the temptation to hypocrisy is universal, and dangerous. Mere appearances fail to reach into the soul. True religion has exterior manifestations, certainly, but it flows from the heart, the place where we decide for or against our conscience, for or against God’s will. Our friendship with Christ, and the purpose, strength, and vigor that flows out of that friendship, depends on our inner allegiance to him; looking like goody-two-shoes on the outside can never substitute for that. Jesus doesn’t care what we look like to others; he cares about who we really are.
Christ in My Life
Do I pay too much attention to appearances, Lord? I want others to see you in me, and so I want my outward behavior and appearance to reflect the joy, the purpose, and the goodness you’ve put in my heart. Please keep me from falling into vanity – from caring more about what others think than what you think. Take care of my heart, Lord; teach me to love as you love…
How you despised hypocrisy! But Lord, I fall into it every day! I say I am your follower, and yet look at some of the things I say! The criticisms, the double entendres, the tacit condoning of degrading comments…. In so many ways, Lord, I am still so far from the integrity you want for me. Change me, Jesus; teach me to do your will…
I wonder why many of the people around me are so unhappy. Is it because they are seeking fulfillment in mere appearances, in social acceptance, in having the right reputation and possessions? You have taught me the futility of that lifestyle. Give me the courage, wisdom, and love to pass the lesson on…