August 30, 2015 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Jim miller

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 30, 2015

Reading 1 Dt 4:1-2, 6-8

Responsorial Psalm Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5

R. (1a) One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Reading 2 Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27

Alleluia Jas 1:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

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Homily— August 29 & 30, 2015 

   In the first reading Moses tells the people of Israel “hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live. . .”   In the Gospel Jesus responded to the Pharisees and some scribes calling them hypocrites as he quoted from Isaiah “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.”

   How do we know which laws and regulations are from God and which ones have been created by human beings? The question for us is, what regulations must we keep, and which ones are we free to break?

   Growing up on the farm I learned that it was important to come when Mom yelled out that supper was ready.  Now as I reflect back I see that dropping whatever I was doing to come and eat was a sign of respect and appreciation for my Mother’s work in the kitchen.

   On Monday as I was driving back from the Chicago area after visiting my Aunt Rosie I was driving on the Tollway. The speed limit was 65 mph and I was striving to move with the traffic. I was in the middle lane driving about 71 mph and every once in a while vehicles would pass me on both the left & the right but I thought I was going fast enough.

   I read about a survey being done years ago when Catholics were asked which is the greater sin: eating meat on Friday or missing Mass and sadly, the majority said eating meat on Friday!!!  Now that we are permitted to eat meat on most Fridays, except during Lent, I wonder how many remember that if they do eat meat on Friday they are to do some other act of penance in remembrance of Jesus sacrifice of his life on Good Friday.

   The Letter of James is one of the contested books that the Catholic Church retained in the canon of the New Testament after a dispute with Martin Luther about which books belong in the Bible.  It is in this Letter that the debate over “good works” begins. Many non-Catholics today accuse the Catholic Church of teaching that we must perform “good works” in order to “be saved,” or to gain God’s grace. It seems to some that we are saying that we must earn grace by good works. 

   Of course this is completely untrue. We cannot possibly “earn” grace.  Grace is a gift freely given by God. It is ours to accept or reject. The Word Among Us for August 30 states: “In the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, Lutherans and Catholics spelled out their common understanding of and belief in the concept of justification by faith. Issued in 1999, the declaration said, ‘Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works’ (15).

   I like the words of C. S. Lewis who said that any discussion about which is more important—faith or works—is as senseless as asking which blade of a pair of scissors is more important.

   St. James writes “all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…”   Sometimes I do not appreciate God’s gifts enough. Sometimes I share them with others but sometimes I waste them on myself. James goes on to say that to hear the Word is not enough but we are to put it into action by caring for others in need. In his time it was orphans and widows.  In our time I see it as the person most in need---the homeless and the undocumented immigrant and the person caught in the web of human trafficking.

I did write a check this week to help the Dubuque Rescue Mission. What more is God calling me to do? What is God expecting you to do?