22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B
Dt 4:1-2, 6-8, Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5, Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27, Gospel Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Building Model Airplanes
When I was a kid one of the things that I loved to do was to build plastic models. I would put together Model Battleships, Submarines, Aircraft Carriers and Airplanes.
The models came with a set of instructions, mostly pictures showing you how to glue part 17B to 17A. You would hunt through the pieces and find the parts, and then pull them out and glue them together. Only then would you recognize that the picture to the right had a big WARNING! Exclamation mark, instructing you to first insert part 16 between 17A and B so that the model would go together right. Often, I would glue 17A and B together before seeing the exclamation mark, and then I would have a sorry looking plane, ship or submarine. The lesson I learned from this was to read the instructions through completely before beginning. It is a difficult lesson for guys to learn, because we feel that building stuff ought to be in our genes.
Following instructions helps us stay safe
The readings today teach us that this idea of following the instructions in order to have a cool looking model airplane, or to figure out what is wrong in the radar system is actually a very ancient idea. The readings today speak about the Law – the revealed Word that God gave us to help us to live good and happy lives. In the first reading Moses instructs the children of Israel about the law that God has given them. This is an important point – The Law is a gift to help us to live life, so that we can be in possession of the land.
The Law is a Gift.
When you compare the legal code of God to the legal code of man you quickly realize that God is pretty brief. He outlined his law in 10 commandments, whereas it takes a library filled with books to describe the American legal code.
Why did God give us the Law? – To live and possess
God gave us the law to help us to live – to live lives that are compatible with his holiness, to live lives that would lead us to happiness. Living our lives in accord with God’s laws means that we are living our lives in a way that we are in possession of our land. This is one of the brilliant ideas behind Gods scheme, he recognized the dominance of sin in our lives, and so he left us the law so that we could be in possession of our lives instead of letting Sin rule our lives.
Testing Jesus – is He for real?
In the Gospel today we find that the Pharisees are testing Jesus. They are watching him closely. I think that this is a very natural, human reaction, and I think that we all do this. We all come to Christ with the question – How do I know that you are the Son of God? One of the ways that the Pharisees fall down, and I think that we too can fall down, is that they are watching the wrong things. They are watching to see if the disciples obey the hygienic laws (a minor point of the law), while not checking out the important laws (the 10 commandments). Once they see that the disciples don’t always wash their hands before eating they have the “AHA!” moment that Mark describes in today's Gospel.
Model Airplane Building contest
Imagine that in the Gospel today Jesus and his disciples entered into a model airplane building contest with the Pharisees. Jesus is watching his disciples put together their model and the Pharisees come up and say “AHA – your disciples got some glue on the airplane! I can see fingerprints on the airplane!”. Jesus’ response is – “Yes I see, and you have attached your wings to where the landing gear is supposed to go.”
Is our way of life leading us to happiness?
The readings today invite us to examine our lives in the light of the Law. Are we living lives that allow us to be happy, to take possession of ourselves, or are we living lives that are ruled by sin? Is our heart far from Christ? Are we worshiping God in vain?
Where have we missed the important parts of the Law?
Are our hearts filled with unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance or folly?
Be Doers of the word!
If we find that we are, there is hope. James reminds us that we can begin the life of conversion today by first accepting the word that has been planted in us at baptism, the word that is able to save our souls. Not just to accept that word, but be doers of the word – to respond to this gift of God’s love by doing what is important, taking care of those who are in need, who are afflicted.
James exhorts us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only. How can we become doers of the word this week?
Those of us who struggle with unchastity, adultery or licentiousness can conquer those sins by serving others – especially in manual labor, or by keeping a vigil hour in the middle of the night and interceding for others who struggle with the same sin.
Those of us who are tempted with the sins of theft, greed or envy can attack those sins by striving to offer a little more of our alms to the poor – but to offer them out of a thankful heart, and not a grudging heart.
Those of us who find it easy to be overwhelmed with murder, malice, and deceit might try to spend a little time each day reflecting on scripture, so that we can see the great love that drives God to create and care for his creation.
Finally those who are blasphemers, arrogant or foolish might consider some time in Eucharistic Adoration – to encounter Christ as he is, and listen to him in your soul.
All of these medicines can be unsettling for our soul at first, but that is because they challenge us to repent – to believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ, and to change our lives for the better.