22nd Sunday In Ordinary Time (B)
Sunday, 30th August 2015
by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
First Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8
Moses said to the people:
“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?”
Second Reading: James 1:17-18,21-22,27
Dearest brothers and sisters:
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.
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.
Gospel Acclamation: Alleluia. Alleluia. The Father gave us birth by the word of truth, that we would become first fruits of his creation. Alleluia.
GOSPEL: Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23
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 you 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 them, but the things that come out of a person are what defile them.
"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.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
The evangelist, St. Mark, in today's Gospel text relates to us that once again Jesus and his disciples received criticism from the Pharisees and some of the scribes. They accused Jesus' disciples of impurity since they did not follow the ritual washing before meals. It was part of the tradition during Jesus' time to perform the ritual washing of the hands before eating. Actually, this is not the first time that they accused Jesus of something. The Scribes and Pharisees were watching closely Jesus' every move so that they may put up something against him Like, they accused Jesus of blasphemy. They accused Jesus of being a glutton and a drunkard. They accused Jesus of associating with sinners and tax collectors. They accused Jesus of doing his ministry of healing by the power of the devil. And they accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath law. The Scribes and the Pharisees were always out to find fault with what Jesus do. This is the very reason why they noticed even a simple neglect of the observance of the law such as washing of hands before meals. They made the issue some kind of a big deal. But Jesus turns on them and gave them a lesson they won't forget. For Jesus, they should not be so particular about something that is coming from the outside. What is truly wrong are those things that come from within the person. "There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile them, but the things that come out of a person are what defile them." I don't think our Lord Jesus was against the ritual of the washing of the hands per se. Good practices of hygiene are, of course, essential in our lives. Which means that washing your hands before preparing or eating food is indeed important. But what turned Jesus off about the Scribes and Pharisees is their hypocrisy. In Matthew 23:27, Jesus said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of bones of the dead and everything unclean." What was being condemned, therefore, in this particular Gospel text is hypocrisy.
What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy comes from a Greek word - hupokrites- which literally means a theater actor , like a performer acting under a mask. Hypocrisy is a strong word, nobody wants to be called a hypocrite. A hypocrite is someone who puts his best foot forward while hiding his real self. They are those who hide their true characters behind a mask of righteousness to receive the praise of others. Hypocrisy is when one supposedly cares and sacrifices for others while exploiting them. Some people say that people who do not practice what they preach are perfect examples of hypocrite. But I think, it is more than that. Part of being human is that we commit mistakes. We have our weaknesses and shortcomings. Even St. Paul lamented , "Why do I do the things I hate." Hypocrisy, therefore, consist not only in failing to practice what we preach, but in not believing what we preach. Let me elaborate this point by telling you a story:
In a small town in America, a person decided to open up a bar business, which was right opposite to a church. The church and its congregation started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayed daily against his business.
Work progressed. However, when it was almost complete and was about to open a few days later, a strong lightning bolt struck the bar and it was burnt to the ground. The church folk were rather smug in their outlook after that, till the bar owner sued the church authorities for $2 million on the grounds that the church through its congregation & prayers was ultimately responsible for the demise of the bar shop, either through direct or indirect actions or means.
In its reply to the court, the church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection that their prayers were reasons for the bar shop’s demise. In support of their claim they referred to the
Benson study at Harvard that stated; “intercessory prayer had no impact !”
As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork and at the hearing he made these comments:
“I don’t know how I am going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer and we have an entire church and its devotees that does not.”
Today's Gospel text serves as a warning to everyone. Jesus knew that there is a tendency to anyone to be hypocrite. In Luke 20:46: Jesus said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets." In contrast to the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees is the person of Jesus. Jesus is our model for Christian life - his love, his obedience to the father, his service, his being truthful and his humility. The antidote to hypocrisy lies in the practice of humility. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus said "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart." Let us always ask the Lord to grant us the purity and humility of the heart. "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." O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours. Amen.