Sunday: Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time Date: August 30, 2009 Year: B The readings: [Deut. 4:1-2, 6-8; Jas. 1:17-18, 21-22, 27; Mk. 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23] The message: Be doers of the Word. Prepared by: THE CATHOLIC DOORS MINISTRY Total words: 1990
Click here for the Index of all the Homilies** The readings follow the sermon.
Welcome children of God to today's celebration of the Holy Mass that commemorates the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. This means that we have now passed the two-thirds mark of the Liturgical Year that will end in November, at which time will begin the First Sunday of Advent.
I pray that the grace of God is rich within all of you today so your ears will hear the glorious message of the Word of God that I am about to share with you.
During today's First Reading, we heard what happened when Moses gave the commandments of the Lord to His people. The Israelites were told to pay attention to the statutes and ordinances so they may live, enter and occupy the promised land.
As commanded by God, Moses also told the people that they must not add anything, nor take anything from the commandments of God. [Deut. 4:2] This was to ensure that the commandments would remain intact generation after generation.
As God's chosen leader of the people, Moses explained to the Israelites that by diligently observing the commandments of the Lord, they would be showing an example to the surrounding nations who worshipped false gods and sacrificed children to their gods. When those nations would hear of the spiritual laws of the true God, they would say, God's people are wise and discerning.
The necessity to obey the commandments of God was not to boast regarding the richness of its spiritual benefits; it was necessary to do so because no other nation had a god so near to it as the Lord God was to His people. And no other nations had the fullness of the law that embraced all the physical and spiritual needs of a people so it may shine in love, mercy and justice for the glory of God the Father.
Moses also explained to the Israelites that obedience to the commandments of God was mandatory. Those who obey the commandments of the Lord would be blessed throughout their lives. Those who disobey the commandments of the Lord by turning to other gods, would be cursed. [See Deut. 11:26-8]
As some of you are fully aware, hundreds of passages within the history of the Old Testament are prophetic of what was to come. Many of the Scriptures echo the coming of the Messiah, the ministry of Christ and His death on the cross. Others echo the institution of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Others yet echo the Sacraments of the Church. Today's reading echoes the teachings of Jesus Christ that are found in the New Testament.
As the Israelites were commanded to pay attention to the statutes and ordinances of God the Father so that they may live, enter and occupy the promised land, we today, are also commanded to pay attention to the teachings of Jesus. Why? Because the teachings of Jesus are our blessed hope that leads to eternal life and salvation. By persevering in our living faith, through the Blood of the Lamb, we will finally rejoice in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.
z Moses emphasized that it was extremely important that the people obey the law, without adding or deleting from it. Those who obey the law would be blessed. Those who disobey it would be cursed. In the New Testament, we find a similar passage. "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person's share which are described in the book." [Rev. 22:18-9]
As God's people of the Old Testament was commanded to obey the law, we today are also commanded to obey God through Jesus Christ. We are commanded to obey the teachings of the Catholic Church that echo the Ten Commandments, the teachings of the Lord Jesus and the Word of God that is found in the Holy Bible. These are our statutes and our ordinances. If we obey them, we will be blessed. If we disobey them, we will be cursed.
For Christ, "having been made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him." [Heb. 5:9] "When He comes to be glorified by His saints and to be marvelled at on that day among all who have believed [2 Thess. 1:9] He will "inflict vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who [did] not obey His gospel." [2 Thess. 1:8]
Accordingly, it is clear that the promise of salvation is conditional, that we must obey the teachings of Jesus Christ. Then, "if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ - if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him." [Rom. 8:17] Our inheritance depends on not being ashamed to bear the Most Holy Name of Jesus, of not being afraid to bear our daily crosses that sanctify us so we may become more in the likeness of Christ. For, "If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him." [2 Tim. 2:11] As St. Peter said, "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps." [1 Pet. 2:21]
Now, some may claim that they have cheated death. They may claim that through their baptism, they are assured eternal life in the Kingdom of God. As such, when their physical body dies, their soul will raise to Heaven. Have I got a surprise for you! Listen to this passage from the Book of Baruch.
"O Lord, look down from your holy dwelling, and consider us. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see, for the dead who are in Hades, whose spirit has been taken from their bodies, will not ascribe glory or justice to the Lord; but the person who is deeply grieved, who walks bowed and feeble, with frailing eyes and famished soul, will declare your glory and righteousness, O Lord." [Bar. 2:16-8]
Did you all hear that, "for the dead who are in Hades, whose spirit has been taken from their bodies"? Those who neglect their salvation lose their soul. They lose the gift of the new creation that they have received during the Sacrament of Baptism. Those who are saved are those who sincerely repent, those who are humble, those who do penance, those who have a deep regret of their sins, those who hunger for God's salvation.
It is no wonder that St. James tells us in today's Second Reading that "Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
All good actions that we perform, we do so by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. God's laws have not changed since the day of creation. As His creations, we are called to obey Him and serve Him in all humility and all righteousness.
By the word of truth, in the Name of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we were born again as new creations. Our new birth is a first step towards a future transformation that will take place at the twinkle of an eye [1 Cor. 15:52] so we may be transformed in the glory of the Lord Jesus. "For the perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality." [1 Cor. 15:53]
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to welcome with meekness the implanted word of God that has the power to save our souls. We are called to be doers of the word, not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
We are called to be holy as our religion is holy. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. As doers of the word, we are called to stand up for the oppressed. We are called to defend the unborn. We are called to condemn the death penalty so we will not have on our hands the blood of falsely convicted persons, this action also providing us with the opportunity to convert the hardest of sinners for the glory of God. What would have happened if St. Paul would have been executed for all what he did to the early Church christians? Surely, a good part of the New Testament would be non-existent!
Now some may say, "I am tired of helping beggars. Why don't they get a job?" We are not called to judge the beggars for God alone knows what hardship or human frailty has led them to become beggars. What we do know is that when we feed the hungry or give a drink to the thirsty, we do so to Christ. Through such sanctifying action, we receive the grace of God that increases the beauty of our souls in the eyes of God the Father. Such actions go to our credit so we may qualify to enter the Kingdom of God.
During today's Gospel Reading, we heard how the Pharisees and some of the scribes questioned Jesus as to why His disciples ate without washing their hands. In those days, their traditions demanded that all kinds of rules be followed regarding washing.
Jesus responded by quoting the prophet Isaiah. "This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines."
In other words, it is more important to obey the commandments of God than to hold on to human traditions. Doing things because our parents and grandparents have done it exactly that way is meaningless. Putting five dollars in the Church collection plate on Sundays, circumcising all male children, going to Christmas midnight Mass versus the daily Mass, preparing eleven dishes for the Easter family meal, spending so much money on a wedding or having to invite so many guests, these are all meaningless traditions. Nobody makes it to heaven by making sure that they followed each of these tradition of their ancestors.
In His teaching to the crowd, Jesus added that there is nothing outside of a person, that if he does it, he is defiled. It is the things that come out that defile. All human actions have their origin in the heart. That is where evil intentions are planned and executed, be they: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, or folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.
Called to be doers of the Word of God, we are not called to be doers of the worldly pleasures that rob the grace of God from our souls. Called to be holy children as members of the holy Body of Christ, we are called to be doers of holy actions, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against such things. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit" [Gal. 5:22-5] so we may truly be doers of the Word.
"Now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.
You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!' For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinations as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?" [Deut. 4:1-2, 6-8]
"Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." [Jas. 1:17-8; 21-2, 27]
"When the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles. So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, 'Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?'
Jesus said to them, 'Isaiah prophesied rightly about your hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."
Then Jesus called the crowd again and said to them, 'Listen to me, all of you and understand there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile"
For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.
All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.'" [Mk. 7:1-8, 14-5, 21-3]