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.

August 30, 2009

For the Twenty-Second Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23

We witness today another conflict between Jesus on one side and the Pharisees and scribes on the other.
Jesus criticizes their hypocrisy and hollow lip service.
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, but cling to human tradition.”
The Pharisees were clinging to “the tradition of the elders.”
The tradition dictated the careful washing of hands before eating.
It also ordered the purifying “of cups and jugs and kettles.”
It called for keeping beds clean.
It is not a bad tradition.
In fact, today we know it is necessary.
In the days of Jesus, people did not know as we do about the existence of germs, microbes, bacteria, or viruses.
Jesus did not tell the Pharisees or the crowd of ordinary people to stop washing, stop cleaning, stop sanitizing or purifying.
However, he took this occasion to challenge the Pharisees and all the people to keep God’s commandments and to work for purity inside themselves.
He said, “You disregard God’s commandment, but cling to human tradition.”
Disregard for God’s commandments keeps our hearts far from God.
Jesus sums up the breaking of God’s commandments as impurities that begin inside us and show up in our thoughts and actions.
He puts it this way today.
From within people,
from their hearts,
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 we are 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 us close to him, he wants us pure, 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 ourselves so chained or hardened that it seems we are condemned to stay impure?
Let’s recall two lessons from Jesus that ought to give us courage.
The first lesson was about a corrupt official guilty of much public evil, and who knew it all too well and painfully.
All that he found himself able to do was 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 honestly that we are sinners is already a lifting up of our hearts to God.
A second lesson for courage.
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 draw near to him.
For that we must obey God’s commandments, and we must challenge our thoughts, feelings, and choices to do battle against sin.
The death of Jesus shows that God spares himself nothing, not even the trampling of 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, “the new and everlasting covenant ... so that sins may be forgiven.”
Let us dare to offer ourselves to him, if not with purity yet, then with the honesty of committed ongoing repentance.
Repentance is the first step on the road to purity and the first step on the road to God.

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







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