One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

September 03, 2006

For the Twenty-Second Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23
Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8
James 1:17-18,21b-22,27

We witness today another conflict between Jesus on one side and the Pharisees and scribes on the other.
Jesus criticizes their and hypocrisy and hollow lipservice.
He quotes the prophet Isaiah.
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.

Then Jesus adds, “You disregard God’s commandment.”
Disregard for God’s commandments keeps our hearts far from God.
Jesus sums up the breaking of God’s commandments as sins that begin in the heart and show up in our thoughts and actions.
He puts it this way today.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.

Jesus forgave sinners.
He forgave prostitutes, robbers, adulterers and corrupt tax officials.
He forgave people whom he knew to be guilty of the evil things that he names today:
evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.

Jesus forgave and still forgives even before our hearts may be ready to seek forgiveness.
As he said from his cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
However, he does not want a one-way relationship.
Jesus is not satisfied to forgive us and then leave us alone where we are.
He wants us to leave sin behind and to be close to him.
He expresses his concern today.
Their hearts are far from me

You disregard God’s commandment

He wants our hearts to be close to him, and the first step in that direction is to obey God’s commandments.
However, what if we find ourselves weak?
What if our struggle against sin is painful and full of repeated, lifelong failure?
What if we find our hearts so chained or hardened that it seems to us there is no hope?
Let’s recall two lessons from Jesus that ought to give us hope.
The first lesson is about a corrupt public official who does not seem to be getting anywhere good and he knows it.
All that he finds himself able to do is to visit the house of God, stand far away from the altar, look down at the floor, beat his chest and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner!”
Jesus said:
This man went home justified.
He who humbles himself will be exalted.

To confess from the heart that we are sinners is already a lifting up of our hearts to God.
There is more.
Two criminals were crucified together with Jesus.
One of the criminals … mocked him, saying,
“Are you not the Anointed One?
Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal answered him, saying,
“Do you not fear God,
since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
You and I are justly condemned.
We are receiving what our actions deserve,
but this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said to Jesus,
“Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him,
“Truly, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus did not miraculously release that criminal from execution.
However, in answer to that man’s repentance, humility and faith, Jesus gave him Paradise that same afternoon.
He wants us to leave sin behind now.
He wants us to bring our hearts close to him.
For that we must obey God’s commandments and battle in our hearts against sin.
The death of Jesus shows us that God will spare himself nothing, not even his own dignity, in offering us from out of his own sin-wounded heart the forgiveness of our sins.
Yet, in order to take hold of God’s gift we must forgive those who sin against us, and we must ask God for what he has already offered.
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

The merciful heart of God is handed over to us in the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ.
Let us offer him the closeness of our own hearts, if not with purity, then at least with the honesty of repentance.

That God Be Glorified in All


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