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Friday, August 28, 2015

Preparation: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time can be found here.

As we prepare for this weekend's Liturgy of the Word, it almost seems as though there are 4 unique readings that offer us a look at the different ways we put into action the Word of God.

The First Reading, a discussion from Moses to the Israelite people, is a call to adhere to the commands of the Lord.  He tells them to observe the commands carefully so that their wisdom will be clear to all who see them. 

The Psalm, then, progresses to tell us how to act, rather than what rules to follow.  We are told that "One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord" and then the Psalm proceeds to give us examples of being this just person: walk blamelessly, think without malice, don't reproach or mistreat those around you, refusing bribes.  These are actions of those who will not be welcomed into the Lord's presence. 

In two readings, we've been given commands to follow and examples of how to behave.  The Second Reading, which comes from James, gives us an insight into our own creation: "He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."  He further commands us to not delude ourselves into thinking that we can somehow just know the Word without action.  "Be doers of the word and not hearers only."  How can we be doers according to this reading?  By helping widows and orphans and staying "unstained" by the world we live in.

Finally, we have the Gospel.  So far, the readings have been very straightforward: follow the commandments of the Lord and, in doing so, behave appropriately.  And then we hear the story of the Apostles eating without first washing their hands- a big no-no in Jewish culture.  The Pharisees, who typically represent the knowing-the-Word-in-word-but-not-in-Spirit, are appalled.  They approach Jesus, wanting to know why the Disciples are not following the letter of the law, to which Jesus replies, "...In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition."  He then calls the people to him and says further,  "Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.

Questions to consider from the Gospel:  "All these evils come from within and they defile.”  What does this mean?  Is Jesus telling us to disregard the ancient writings and to focus more on our internal vices and how those things bring us closer to or push us farther away from God?  Do we cling to "human tradition" at the expense of the Spirit of God's Word and the teachings of the Church?  Where are we- are we like the disciples, eating to our fill of Christ but with soiled hands, or are we like the Pharisees, who cling to the literal words in the Bible and Catechism, making sure that we look the part on the outside while perhaps not letting God permeate our innermost being?  Are we somewhere in between?

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