September 2, 2018 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Jim Miller

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

  1. (1a) The 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

The Father willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

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Homily—September 1 & 2, 2018   22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time


As Moses speaks to the people in today’s first reading from Deuteronomy we should note that he has just finished a long speech summarizing how God led the people of Israel to the brink of their entry into the Holy Land.  Now, knowing that he cannot accompany them in the final steps of their journey, Moses reminds them that obedience to God’s law is what makes them who they are.

Moses’ command that the people listen deeply reminds us of the call of Samuel.  When Samuel said, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9), he put himself in God’s hands.  Listening meant that he was ready to do whatever God asked. People who listen in that way allow God’s word to permeate their being such that it becomes the central motivation of everything they do.  

For Moses, God’s law expresses God’s will in a way that’s almost incarnational.  The law is God’s way of drawing close to the people. Moses explains that if his people obey the law, their way of life will make them a sign to the nations, a witness to who God is.   Unfortunately the actions of a small number of clergy has made everyone suspect and tends to discredit the church as a whole. Every one of us is called to holiness. Every one of us is called to be a saint.  Don’t let false images of sexuality, riches of this world, power and pleasure lead you into sin.

The second reading from the letter of James continues the theme of Moses.  Moses called on his people to listen with their hearts. James tells us to welcome the word planted in us with meekness or humility.  The idea that the word is planted in us emphasizes that it is a grace, a gift of God and that, like a seed, it lives within us, involved in a process of growth moving toward fruitfulness.   One who is meek or humble in this scriptural sense is someone who is ready to learn, who does not consider her or himself self-sufficient. It is not enough to hear the Word, we must also be doers of the word.   When you read the Bible or listen to it strive to come up with an action that you can do that day.

After five weeks of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John we return to the Gospel of Mark at what is nearly its crucial midpoint.  Mark presents this interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees without specifying its precise time or place. While Mark frames the incident as a conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes, what is really at stake is the question of the heart of religion in contrast to customs or traditions that may or may not function to bring people closer to God.

As Jesus makes clear in today’s gospel, who we are, what we believe, how we respond to life’s challenges begin within our hearts, the place where God dwells inside every one of us.  Conversely, the evil we are capable of, the hurt we inflict on others, the degrading of the world that God created also begin within our hearts--when God is displaced by selfishness, anger, greed, hatred.  Today’s gospel challenges us to look into the depths of our hearts to realize exactly what we feel passionate about, what we truly believe, what we are called to do with this life God has given us. The meaning of faith is centered in our hearts, in that most personal of spaces where God dwells inside of us.

This week’s readings call us to ever-deeper and broader integrity.  Do we admit our own need for conversion and help to grow in grace? The readings warn us that our critiques of others put our own values and integrity on show and reveal whether our priorities come from a God-touched heart or a desire to look pious.  When we discuss what “should” be done, our remembrance of Moses and Jesus demands that we question whether our interpretation of God’s will is life-giving to all people or self-serving.

James gives us the final test:  Religion that is pure is this—care for the most needy and freedom from the false values of society.