Reflecting on this week’s Gospel according to Mark, I am reminded of the story about a thief who late one night hounded a priest: “Your money or your life!” When he saw the priest’s collar he told him to put his wallet away. The relieved priest lit a cigarette and offered one to his would-be mugger. “Not thanks, Father. I have given up cigarettes for Lent”, he proudly responded.
At the times of Jesus it must have been common for people missing on the sins from within, while being utmost pristine in following ritual and purity laws… missing the forest because of the trees. Looks like the problem had been observed some 800 hundred years before, in Jesus’ quoting Isaiah’s reference to lip service from people, worshiping in vain. Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees that they are hypocrites when they are more concerned about the ritual law than the reason for the law. The problem has not gotten much visible improvement to this day. Some famous quotes from the last 50 years, like “The sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin.", “Psychology advises us to resist our feelings of guilt. Sociology instructs us to lay all blame on society and think of ourselves as victims”, remind us of the danger of thinking God takes our sins lightly because we take them lightly. Jesus recaps for us that “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly” “come from within and they defile”, dishonor and violate.
Examination of conscience is not a bizarre design by old nuns for children, but an ancient practice that comes from the pagan world, passed on to the Jews and borrowed by Christianity. It also exists in other traditions and believes. I am personally impressed by a powerful examination of conscience worked up by the Hindu Mahatma Gandhi: a list of seven deadly sins. They are: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, commerce without
morality, science without humility, worship without sacrifice, knowledge without character, and politics without principle.
In the First Reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses give his people clear instructions to follow the Lord’s commandments once they enter the promised land. To the point that he announces that it will raise the standing of the people in the world they were living, because of such high standards. The Israelites are happy because the Law allows them to follow their God. The ancient Hebrews always felt that the Law was a blessing, a personal guide from the Almighty.
As we begin to read the Letter of James, after seven weeks of Second Readings from the Letter to the Ephesians, he too reminds us that God is the source of every good gift. We will read from James for the next five Sundays and learn from one of the five “catholic” epistles. Catholic not as Roman Catholic, but as universal in scope, intended to impact not just one particular local community, as with the Pauline letters (Ephesians, Romans, Corinthians, etc.), but addressed to Christians living outside of Palestine (“to the twelve tribes in dispersion” says the first verse of James’ letter). The Father’s gifts go as far as enabling our re-creation, for the salvation that is offered to those who are born again of the truth of God’s word. The intimacy of God’s word is emphasized in the stunning image of the word planted deep within us that will grow and transform us… with clear recommendation about doing as opposed to only hearing the word.
The complete text of the readings at http://scriptures-my-journey-oflife-andfaith.blogspot.com/2009/08/twenty-second-sunday-in-ordinary-time.html
With God’s Love and Blessings,
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For a Print version (pdf file) go to http://www.scribd.com/doc/19335597/Print-Version-22nd-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time