Posted by: matt25 | September 5, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Readings for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B.

It is good to be back with my own parish family at Saint Joseph Church.  For the last month, I have been preaching at other parishes on the Gospel of John and the wonderful “Bread of life” discourse.  How good it is whenever we focus on that great sacrament and mystery of the Eucharist, which is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”  It is truly our greatest gift from God!  For it is Christ himself, truly present in His body and blood, soul and divinity for us to receive whenever we come to celebrate our love for God and each other at Mass.

Today we return to Mark, which most scholars believe is the oldest of the Gospels, and we hear Jesus quoting Isaiah, calling the Pharisees hypocrites, because they were focused on the traditions and rituals that built up over time.  He disapproved even though these traditions and rituals that were a response to the greatest gift of God to ancient Israel.  Jesus disapproved because they focused on externals while losing the focus on the gift itself.

The Torah, the Law of Moses… was as much a treasure to the Israelites as the Eucharist is to us as Catholic Christians.  The Law set them apart and defined who they were as a people.  It was not created or formulated by human hands but by God, and it was given as a divine act of favor and blessing.  It was given to them to keep them in close relationship with God.

What is important to note is that Jesus never said that the traditions of washing hands and dishes was bad, just that the Pharisees got the whole thing balled up and backward.  Human traditions, no matter how ancient and dear to us, cannot replace or set aside that which is given to us by God.

Our relationship with God is manifested by our words and actions.  It isn’t the other way around.  We live inside out, not outside in!

Fortunately, God has given us the gifts that we need to fight the good fight and run the good race.  The gifts we receive each week of the sacred Word and the Blessed Sacrament, as well as the sacred traditions of our faith, which need to always be kept in the proper perspective lest we become hypocrites, like the Pharisees that Jesus called on the carpet.

We can never exchange rosaries and novenas for a living relationship with God, but rosaries and novenas prayed with love and springing from our relationship with God are a beautiful thing indeed.  We are blessed to have so many gifts from our faith tradition, which is also a gift in and of itself.

There are so many gifts that are only fully enjoyed when kept in right relationship with God; friends and family, religious freedom, medicine, education, marriage, indoor plumbing, science, the gift of life itself from conception to natural death, poetry, and music…

Music was on my mind all week as I reflected on these readings; the letter of James bought one song in particular to mind from the Broadway musical Godspell:

ALL GOOD GIFTS

~We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..

~But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand..

~He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain…

~The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain…

~All good gifts around us

~Are sent from Heaven above

~So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love…

For the next 5 weeks we are with James for our 2nd reading at Sunday liturgy, and James pointedly reminds us that all good giving AND every good gift is from God.  Therefore, it is not only the gifts themselves, which are good.  The gifts change us when we open our hearts to them and we become good givers..  Our actions then manifest that change, which is the giving of ourselves to the world around us, and we know, as James tells us, that our giving, is from God.

James’ advice might well be summed up as “act on the word.  If all you do is listen, then nod your head and smile, you were given a gift that you didn’t bother to open!  If the word doesn’t change you… If you don’t become a doer of the word, you missed the boat!”

So Let the gifts of God change you, then become both gift and giver yourself, living the Eucharist in all the areas of your life and with every person you meet.

~We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,

~The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,

~No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts

~But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

~All good gifts around us

~Are sent from Heaven above..

~So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love..

~I really wanna thank you Lord

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