Homily for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday, September 2nd, 2018:
Deuteronomy 4:1-8; Psalm 15:1-5; James 1:17-27; and Mark 7:1-23
By Father Scott Karnik
“You get out of something what you put into it.” That’s probably the best lesson we can learn from this Sunday’s Bible readings. In today’s first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses tells the Israelites to “hear and observe the statutes and the ordinances which I teach you, and do them;…(Deut 4:1). Moses tells the Israelites to obey the law carefully. “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you”(Deut 4:2). Exact observance is required. Sacred Scripture also says we must make room for God’s Word in our souls. St. James writes “Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls”(James 1:21). St. James writes that God’s Word has created us and lives in us to save us but His Word must be carried out. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”(James 1:22). God has made the world with a purpose and has chosen us. Our God is a moral god. God’s moral purpose pervades the universe of His chosen ones and those who commit themselves to a moral god must be moral themselves. God is faithful, so must we. True religion observes the connection between covenant faith and covenant love. Today’s psalm reading lists the virtues required of a worthy citizen of Zion, Mount Zion. God’s Presence is located there, in His Temple.
Moses explains why the Israelites, and we today, must observe carefully God’s commandments. It is “…that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers gives you”(Deut 4:1). God promises the Israelites a long life lived peacefully in the land God will lead them into so they can possess it. There are motives for our obedience. I encourage you to read all of Deuteronomy, Chapter Four. You and I are required to receive God’s commandments meekly, know them, and do them. We receive them and we do them so that our virtues are visible to others. That’s another motive, renown. Israel’s pagan neighbors will acknowledge that Israel’s God is closer to it than their own pagan gods are to them. And another motive is the excellence of God’s law itself. What other law is more excellent than God’s law? We get out of it what we put into it. We observe carefully God’s Word and teachings; we receive them. Then, we do them so that what comes out of us is pure religion and the virtues listed in Psalm 15. That is what Jesus refers to in the Gospel reading. He rejects the praise of our lips. Jesus says the soul is the seat of our moral life. It is from there that evil thoughts and affections emerge to cause moral defilement. One’s acts which are inspired from within show when a person is not obeying God’s commands, or is obeying them.
Those are the lessons and the tough challenges given us today in Sacred Scripture. But there’s one more thing. God is faithful to His Covenant with Israel, even though Israel is not. Israel will be exiled to Babylon. They begin to lose hope of ever returning to the Promised Land. Read Isaiah, Chapter 40. God tells the exiled Jews that they will return. God forgives them.
***** There are parallels between today’s readings and Holy Mother Church. You have heard all the dismaying reports and the dirty laundry. But Holy Mother Church’s relationship with Jesus Christ is unique. It is Eucharist, Jesus’s Bread of Life Discourse which makes it so. It is also unique because Jesus builds His Church on the rock of St. Peter. Jesus promises that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”(Matthew 16:17-19). Sadly, we’ve been here before in our Church’s history. There have been schisms, abuses, sinful leaders. Through it all, only this church is two-thousand-years old and still here. Jesus is present here in His Sacraments. The Holy Spirit is also present in this church. Read John 14:15. This church, this faith, is unique, when we carry out God’s teachings, amplified by this church’s teaching authority. May we pray and observe God’s commandments amplified by this church’s teachings. When we do, priests and faithful, we bear virtue and renown in this world. We will also be worthy of God’s presence. So please pray for an increase of the Holy Spirit on this Church. Please pray for many graces for her leaders, her priests, and her faithful to return to holiness and to strengthen our holiness. That is a good place to start because we, you and I, need that right now in this Church’s time. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us SINNERS, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
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