September 2, 2018 —Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
DT 4:1-2, 6-8; PS 15:2-5; JAS 1:17-18,21B-22,27; MK 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus instructs us in the best way we can honor Him, teaching us the meaning of true worship. Jesus reveals that the way we truly worship Him is by giving Him our hearts. The heart is the deepest part of us, the very core of our being. He wants our heart connected to His heart. He wants a strong, real, and intimate relationship with us.
Stewardship is all about giving our hearts over to the Lord, giving Him first priority so that we can have this profound relationship with Him — a relationship that affects every area of our lives.
We also learn in this Gospel passage what our Lord does not want – the pious lip service that the scribes and Pharisees offer. In fact, recalling the words of the prophet Isaiah, Jesus laments, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me.” The scribes and Pharisees were observing the religious rituals of their day and time, but they were simply going through the motions. They were not allowing God to change them and so their worship was in vain. Our Lord is not looking for the number of prayers we can rattle off or our great knowledge of Church teaching.
The second reading, from St. James, reinforces Jesus’ teaching on true worship. St. James tells us to “be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” In other words, talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words. It is not enough to show up at Mass on Sunday as a passive observer. That is vain worship; it is not giving our hearts over to God.
St. James then gives two examples of worship that is pleasing to God. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Reaching out to the most vulnerable members of society, maintaining a moral lifestyle in our increasingly immoral world, this is true worship.
But how can we determine if we really are giving our hearts over to the Lord and not just paying Him lip service? We must commit to the Lord day by day and not just for an hour on Sunday, important as our Sunday Mass commitment is. We must examine our lives to see if they reflect a life lived out for Him.
Stewardship gives us a concrete means to examine our lives in three fundamental areas — the use of our time, our talents, and our material gifts. A stewardship way of life invites and challenges us to make specific commitments in each of these areas on a regular basis, giving us a practical means to commit to the Lord. How well we are keeping these commitments can give us a kind of measuring stick to see if we are growing closer to Him, or perhaps need to put a little more effort into a particular area of our lives.
When we all strive to give God true worship — putting Him first with all our hearts — what beauty we will find in our homes, our parish, and our world.