August 29, 2021 — 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
Our readings today call us to pause for a moment and consider how we respond to God’s love for us each day.
Our Gospel recounts a dialogue between the Pharisees and Jesus. The Pharisees questioned why Jesus’ disciples did not practice the ritual washing before eating a meal.
Jesus simply responded by quoting scripture, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”
The Pharisees were good at doing what they were supposed to. They knew all the traditions and customs, ensured they followed them, and ensured that it would be made known if someone else did not follow them.
Jesus’ response reminds us to ask ourselves ‘why.’ Why do we remain faithful to God’s commands? Why do we pray or go to Mass? Why do we participate in the sacraments? Why do we love others?
Do we do these things because we know we ‘should’ or because we are afraid of what might happen if we do not? Are we just checking boxes? Or do we do these things out of love for our Good and Gracious Giver?
Often, we are living our faith a certain way out of obligation, fear, or duty. But Jesus reminds us that the greatest way to live out our faith is through love. Our faith has obligations to provide us opportunities to love, honor, and praise the Lord. They are meant to aid us on our personal journey with Jesus Christ. And we are called to not go through the motions by “honoring God with our lips” only, but with our whole hearts.
St. James reminds us in our second reading how to do just that, as he says, “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” He reminds us that every moment of each day is an opportunity to respond to God’s infinite love for us with love and gratitude in return.
If we approach our relationship with Jesus with this in mind, then we begin to realize that the gift of the Mass is an opportunity to worship God, the sacraments are ways to draw us closer to Him and His commandments are opportunities to love Him more faithfully.
And if we approach our day-to-day moments with this in mind, then we begin to see just how many blessings God has given us. Looking at life through the lens of gratitude helps us to see each moment as a gift with endless opportunities to respond in love.
It begins by rising each day with a prayer of thanksgiving, offering our daily tasks as a prayer to the Lord, seeking ways to share our gifts and talents with others, saying a prayer of thanksgiving before meals, sharing words of affirmation to a loved, or taking time to reflect on how much God loves us and how we can best love Him in return.
This is how we ought to live our lives as Christian stewards — by recognizing our lives as a gift and an opportunity to love God in response to how He has loved us.
So let us look inward at our hearts and ask ourselves why we live our faith the way we do. Let us strive to pray with meaning, attend Mass with attention, serve others out of love for God and recognize just how blessed we are. It is in these simple moments that we love extraordinarily and honor God wholeheartedly.