Sunday, August 29, 2021

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Follow the Spirit of the Law

 URGENT: Today's second reading speaks of "good giving" and reminds us that "every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights." 

In light of this, please help keep this evangelization work alive by donating. So far a few have donated, but I have not met the goal. In December, I have to pay for the renewal of this domain name, so I need your help.  I also want to expand this work so it can reach even more people.  Please help me meet my campaign goal by donating at:

If about 2,700 people donate only $9.25-$10, then I will meet the goal quickly.  As more people donate, gofundme will in turn place my campaign on the front page of their website giving it more promotion.  So I hope you reading this will help with a donation.  

Remember, after September 2021 if I have not raised enough, then I will have to wind this work down. God will judge us not only on how good we were but also on how much we have helped each other in love by giving; and not on what we saved up in life (Luke 6:38, Matthew 6:19).  

Thank you, God bless + Mary keep!'

Today's readings are about the real Law of God in our hearts.

The first reading tells us of Moses.  He instructs the people of Israel to listen to the statutes and decrees given by the Lord. God has given the Hebrews the promised land along with the Commandments (Deuteronomy 1:8, Joshua 1:3, Exodus 20). The name "Israel" means "one who wins with God" (Genesis 35:10). Israel would become the name of the people of God (Deuteronomy 33:29, Isaiah 44:21). This new nation would be one founded upon God's law (Exodus 21:1, Psalm 78:5).  Moses tells the people to observe the Law carefully and not add to or subtract from them. Those who live by the Law will be in observance of God's will and live in His presence as we read in the responsorial Psalm ((Leviticus 18:5, Proverbs 7:2, John 14:15, Proverbs 3:1).

We must do justice in order to live in the presence of God as the responsorial Psalm tells us (Isaiah 1:17). Those who walk blameless and do justice; who has truth in his or their heart and speak no deceit are who God will take into His abode (Psalm 24). We must be like this, doing harm to no one; hating no one (Romans 13:10, John 13:34-35, Matthew 5:44).  We must lend to others without asking for interest (Exodus 22:25-27, Leviticus 25:25-37, Nehemiah 5:10,11). Our hearts and minds must be pure, focused on God and His law (Psalm 123:1, Lamentations 3:41). This law is planted in our hearts as we read in the second reading (Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:27, Hebrews 10:16).

In the second reading, we are told that all good giving is from heaven above (2 Corinthians 9:7). We must help others, donate our time, goods, and even money to help others (Deuteronomy 15:10, 16:17, Proverbs 21:26, 28:27, Luke 3:11). God willed us into being to be the first fruits of kindness and generosity (Acts 17:25). Today, we see many so-called preachers speaking of the "Gospel of prosperity."  There is no such thing.  This is a lie of the devil (John 8:44, Luke 4:6, 1 Timothy 6:10). The Gospel is the Gospel of the Poor (Luke 4:18, Matthew 11:5).  We are called to be poor (Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 19:21). This does not mean that we have to be on the streets begging (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  What this means is that what we do have must not define who we are (Luke 21:1-4, Luke 12:15). We must be ready to let go of it if and when the time comes. When we do have enough, we must make use of it to help, not only ourselves and loved ones, but also others (Luke 6:38, Proverbs 11:24-25, Proverbs 19:17).  Charity is true charity when it is done to the stranger (Matthew 10:42). The other day I tweeted this:

Now I did not tweet that to show off or do like the Pharisees by standing on the corner so others can see (Matthew 6:5).  I tweeted this to hopefully inspire others. It feels good to help others, especially a complete stranger. I loved working at St. Francis House in Boston. Handing out clothes, shoes, and food to the homeless of "Beantown" gave me great joy. This good work of helping others is that word that is planted in us.  We must put this word to practice (Matthew 5:16, James 2:14-17).  As the reading says, "be doers of the word and not hearers only."  Religion must not just be something we do on Sundays. It must be a living faith that is genuine, in service of others and most importantly, of God (James 1:27).  We must not become like the Pharisees who used religion and the law to oppress others and themselves as we read in the Gospel.

In the Gospel, we read of Jesus confronting the Pharisees or teachers of the Law in His day.  These men noticed that some of Jesus' disciples ate with "unclean hands." Under the law, Jews are supposed to go through a ritual before eating which includes the washing of hands (Leviticus 17:15).  This was a tradition that developed in the past and served for hygienic purposes at first, but then became a spiritual gesture or sacramental of sorts in the Jewish faith. Anyhow, the Pharisees questioned Jesus on this asking Him, "Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?"  They asked this because these men were so caught up in rules and regulations that they failed to see why these rules even existed. They mechanically followed them without internalizing them (Mark 2:27).

Today, we have even in the Catholic Church some people who go to Mass just to nitpick how the priest celebrated it or how the altar servers and faithful participated. I have so many stories of some parishioners coming up to me to criticize a particular priest or altar server. They got the details to the letter in regards to what they wanted to point out and criticize, but when I asked them what the readings were about or what the homily was on, they had no clue. These people like the Pharisees did not internalize the Mass.  Instead, they were focused on judging the celebrant, altar servers, and their peers in the pews (1 Samuel 16:7).  Jesus faced the same hypocrisy as the Pharisees.  After the Pharisees questioned Him, Jesus responds, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: 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.  You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”  Jesus continues stating that what comes from the outside cannot defile a person.  Rather, what comes from within is what does.  

Pope Francis recently released a Motu Propio entitled Traditionis Custodes.  In it, he gave more authority to bishops to regulate how the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is used. Before this, he conducted a survey where the bishops gave their thoughts on the Extraordinary Mass and how it is being used in their dioceses. The majority of bishops showed concerned.  When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI issued his own Motu Propio Summorum Pontificum, he was hoping to bring unity and foster a love for the Mass in its many forms. Unfortunately, certain factions within the Church who call themselves "traditionalists" and "radical traditionalists abused the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  They used it to attack the Ordinary Form, Vatican II, the pope, and Catholics who attend the Ordinary Form. They see themselves as the sole authentic Catholics who participate in the "true Mass." The Ordinary Form to them is an "innovation." This of course is not true and shows a lack of education on the part of these Catholics.  They behave like the Pharisees caught up in the letter of the law and not the spirit.  

He says, “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.  All these evils come from within and they defile.”   By stating this, He made all foods clean (Mark 7:19).  The Jews got carried away with their laws. In the past, they avoided what the Gentiles ate because these animals were sacrificed to pagan deities and faced stomach illness which traumatized them due to animals that needed extra preparation (swine).  This overzealous piety got the best of them becoming a sort of taboo.  The Pharisees were caught up in the externals.  It was all about these rites, clothing, and gesticulation with them (Matthew 23:13). Jesus reminds us that we must not be like them (Matthew 6:5, Matthew 23:33).  All foods are clean, spiritually speaking.  Touching or eating pork, shellfish, etc has no effect on the soul in regards to sin and holiness.  The Jews got carried away with the laws.  These rules were made not for us to be slaves to them, but for them to help us become better people (Mark 2:23-27).  Christians today are not bound by the laws (lower-case L). These are the cultural and civil laws of Israel that served the people at that time. Many atheists love to claim that Christians are hypocrites because they eat shellfish or wear polyester in light of the rules in Leviticus (Leviticus 11:12, Leviticus 19:19).  However, they do not understand that these laws were created to serve the Jews of the time and to regulate their culture and civil affairs, not faith.  It is the Law (capital L/moral laws) that we are all bound by, not the law (lowercase/rituals, culture, civil) (John 14:15-31, Romans 7:1-6). This is the Law of God, His commandments (Exodus 20).

We in the Catholic Church must not be like the Pharisees by getting caught up in rites and externals that change with every council that comes by.  These rites and rubrics serve us, we do not serve them. We must not become like those who are so caught up in rules and rites that we even attack the Pope and reject Vatican councils just to adhere to legalism. If we do this, we become like the Pharisees.   Instead of the rites bringing us to worship God, these rites become a god to us forcing us to betray the Catholic Church and the Successor of St. Peter. We become cold and rigid like the Pharisees.  Our faith tradition is a living one, not a dead one stuck in a set period of time. "Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism the dead faith of the living" (quoted from "On the Lord's Appearing: An Essay On Prayer And Tradition," pg 17).   Vestments, rubrics, gestures all serve to guide us to God, not to imprison us into becoming liturgical mindless robots mumbling things without sincerity or without understanding what we are saying (Matthew 6:7).   We must not participate in Mass as if it was some act or script for a television show that we must get perfect.  This is not what the Mass is supposed to be.  Let us internalize the faith using the externals the Church allows so that we can become generous loving Christians who help others, and do everything to please God and become the image of God.  In today's age of this pandemic of the Covid 19 Coronavirus, we must appreciate the Mass more and all liturgical rites of the Church.  We must see the Spirit behind them and not just the letter.  May Jesus Christ be praised!

Readings: Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

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