Readings: Dt. 4:1-2, 6-8/ James 1:17-18, 21-22,27/ Mark 7:1,14-15,21-23
Theme: The Unchanging Word of the Unchanging God.
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
As human beings, we change, and there are changes in many aspects of our lives. God on the other hand, does not change. Thus, according to the 2nd reading, every good gift comes from God, who cannot change (James 1:17).
Changeable as we are, our words or instructions do change. The Word of God, however, does not change, because God is unchanging. It is because the Word of God does not change that Moses, in the 1st reading, told his people: ‘in your observance of the commandment of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin upon you, YOU SHALL NOT ADD TO WHAT I COMMAND YOU, NOR SUBTRACT FROM IT ‘(Dt.4:2).
If the MANUAL of a car says use only petrol fuel, adding diesel to it will create a problem. Hence, no one in his right mind will add diesel to the petrol. Nonetheless, when God says, we should not add to his Word, we sometimes disobey this command – by so doing some forfeit the eternal life He is offering us.
His Word, for instance, says: ‘Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.’ But the ancestors of the Pharisees added the ritual of external purity or good hygiene, and in the process distracted people’s attention from the inner purity/holiness that was worthy of God.
Beloved, in our time also, there are additions to God’s commandments or Word. For instance, God [by his Word] created us, male and female in His image and likeness, and pronounced: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ In other words, by His Word, He instituted marriage as a permanent union of love between a man and a woman; but today some have added to this divine institution: they do not only approve of the union between a man and another man [or between two women], they dare to call it ‘marriage’ – Lord have mercy on us!
I am told that in my infancy, I once tore some pages from the Bible of my grandfather. As human beings, we sometimes mentally or psychologically tear off those pages of the Bible which contain commandments of the Lord we consider unduly demanding or unbearable. For instance, while the Word of God instructs us to honor our fathers and mothers, the Pharisees replaced it with the tradition of CORBAN: the neglect of one’s duty towards parents on account of one dedicating some special gift to God (Mk. 7; 10-13).
Beloved probably we have also mentally torn off some ‘pages’ of the Bible or replaced some of his commandments. Some of us, for instance, have torn off the verse which says, ‘Thou shall not steal’. Others have torn off the verse which says ‘Thou shall not commit adultery’. Etc.
BENEFITS FROM OBEYING GOD’S WORD:
Following the instructions of the manual of, say, a mobile phone, manufactured by imperfect human beings, can bring us certain benefits:
(a) enjoying its good features, (b) using it throughout its life span (guaranteed period).
If this is so, then, obeying the Word of the PERFECT, Unchanging God brings us several benefits. Moses, in the 1st reading mentioned some of the benefits his people would enjoy if they obeyed God’s commandment – we identify 5 of them:
- LIFE: ‘Now Israel, hear the . . . decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live’.
- PROMISED LAND: ‘. . . and you may enter and take possession of the land which the Lord . . . is giving you.’
- WISDOM: ‘Observe them [the commandment] carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom . . . to the nations’.
- INTELLIGENCE: ‘. . . for thus will you give evidence of your intelligence to the nations’.
- JUSTICE: ‘what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?’
Beloved, let us, therefore, carefully observe the Word of God and when we do, may he bless us with:
- LIFE – indeed, with eternal life, amen!
- THE PROMISED LAND of heaven itself, amen!
- WISDOM – indeed, the Divine Wisdom which makes us wise in the sight of God himself, amen!
- INTELLIGENCE – that genuine intelligence which makes us successful in the sight of God, amen!
- JUSTICE – that justice which God reckons as holiness, amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis