September 2, 2012 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dt 4:1-2, 6-8; Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5; Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Striving to live the stewardship way of life and encouraging our parishioners to do the same, we often preach on time talent and treasure. We know how important it is to recognize these things as God’s gifts to us and to give them back to God. “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (second reading).
Today’s scripture readings touch on a very important element of that message, of the stewardship lifestyle, that serves to make the actions of giving our time, talent, and treasure, the actions of giving ourselves completely to God, truly fruitful or vain. That is our intention. Why do we live this way? Who are we trying to please and why are we striving to please Him?
For the Jews, so much of doing what is right and being “acceptable by God” involved prescribed rituals – only eating certain foods, washing before you eat, etc. “Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations” (first reading). But Jesus reminds us that, as Christians, doing what is right, living a righteous life is much deeper than that. In fact, when the Pharisees and scribes are overly concerned with the fact that the disciples are eating without following the set rituals, He calls them hypocrites. He sees that they are observing the letter of the law for the sake of being recognized, and, on top of that, they are judging others, without knowing the state of their hearts.
“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me. You disregard God’s commandments but cling to human tradition” (gospel).
It is not that we aren’t called to follow God’s law – as if intention is all that matters. Rather, so much of Christ’s law rests on love – love of God and love of neighbor, and everything we do should be done in love.
“Religion that is pure and undefined before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows and their afflictions, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (second reading).
We are to act out of love – not for recognition or obligation. Look to Christ. He is our prime example. He came into the world because of His and the Father’s love for us, and He gave of Himself to the point of death because He loves us. (Jn. 3:16)
Likewise, we live to serve Him, to glorify Him in all we do not merely because He has called us to do so and we feel obliged, but because we love Him so much, we want nothing more than to live for Him.
So, when we examine our lives and commit to give more of ourselves to the Lord – more of our time, our talent, and our treasure – we ought also examine our intent. Everything we do should be done for the greater glory of God. No exceptions.