Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Teach us, Good Lord

To serve you as you deserve.

To give and not count the cost.

To fight and not heed the wounds.

To toil and not to seek for rest.

To labor and not to ask for any reward

Except that of knowing that we do Your Will.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

COLLECT

God of might, giver of every good gift,

put into our hearts the love of your name,

so that, by deepening our sense of reverence,

you may nurture in us what is good

and, by your watchful care,

keep safe what you have nurtured.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Dt 4:1-2, 6-8

Moses said to the people:

“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees

which I am teaching you to observe,

that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land

which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.

In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God,

which I enjoin upon you,

you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.

Observe them carefully,

for thus will you give evidence

of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,

who will hear of all these statutes and say,

‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’

For what great nation is there

that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us

whenever we call upon him?

Or what great nation has statutes and decrees

that are as just as this whole law

which I am setting before you today?”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 708 This divine pedagogy appears especially in the gift of the Law.1 God gave the Law as a “pedagogue” to lead his people toward Christ.2 But the Law’s powerlessness to save man deprived of the divine “likeness,” along with the growing awareness of sin that it imparts,3 enkindles a desire for the Holy Spirit. The lamentations of the Psalms bear witness to this.

1 Cf. Ex 19-20; Deut 1-11; 29-30.

2 Gal 3:24.

3 Cf. Rom 3:20.

APPLICATION

Even though the book of Deuteronomy was written some centuries after the death of Moses it is quite possible that he spoke words of exhortation to the Israelites–exhortation to be faithful to their covenant with God–before they left Moab to enter the Promised Land. Whether or not Moses spoke the words given here, they were written by an inspired author and this exhortation was perhaps even more necessary for the author’s contemporaries and their descendants, than it would have been for the Israelites of Moses’ day. The memory of the Exodus and the part played by God in it, as well as all the assistance he gave to them during their journey from Egypt to Moab (Transjordan), was still fresh in the minds of Moses’ contemporaries. The temptation to forget God or to be disloyal to his commandments, would have been much less likely to impress these early Israelites–they badly needed God, they would remain close to him. It was much later, when their descendants had successfully settled in Canaan and through success had grown worldly-minded, that this temptation grew strong and made many Israelites forget their past and God’s part in their history. The exhortation was more necessary in the later period than it would have been at the time of Moses.

These verses from Deuteronomy were selected for our reading today to remind us of our covenant with God, to remind us of all God has done for us and of what he expects of us in return. The boast of the Jews that God was very near to them was true, but with much more truth can we Christians make that same boast. God sent his divine Son to live among us and he raised us up to the dignity of adopted sonship. He made a new and everlasting covenant with us and sealed it with his own precious blood, shed on the cross of Calvary. He has prepared a place in heaven for us and there he will lead us if we cooperate with him. The old covenant made on Mount Sinai, the promised land of Palestine, the Chosen People of Israel were but pale shadows of what God had in store for all nations, Jews and Gentiles, when the “fullness of time” came with Christ.

The words of Moses: give heed to the commands of your Lord and God–keep them and do them, are words addressed to us today. Christ himself has summed them up for us very briefly: “love God and love your neighbor.” If we do these two we are doing everything God expects of us. For any Christian who realizes all that God has done for him and the great future he has in store for him, it should not be hard to love such a good and kind Benefactor. It is to God that we owe our existence and every gift of mind and body we have in this life, and it is to his infinite generosity that we owe the promise of an unending happiness after death.

Loving our neighbor may be at times more difficult–there are people who seem very unlovable. However, we must see in our neighbors God’s other children, our brothers in Christ, and be ever ready to overlook their faults and be willing to offer them the hand of friendship, as well as the helping hand if ever they need it. We are living in a world of tensions and strife. There is greater need than ever to foster the brotherhood of man. The lead should surely come from Christians whose faith teaches them that Christ has made all men his brothers and therefore sons of God. Race or color of skin can mean nothing to a true Christian. God is Father of us all and heaven is the end he has destined for all mankind. As Christians, all our endeavors should be directed to helping our brothers, our fellowman, to reach that happy end. A narrow form of nationalism, or pride of race, or ancestry can have no place in the mind of a true follower of Christ. We are all made of the same clay, but the incarnation of God’s Son has raised us up to a lofty dignity which carries with it the promise of a glorious eternal future. Our one desire should be to help all our neighbors, be they near or far, to share with us that glorious future.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice;

who thinks the truth in his heart

and slanders not with his tongue.

One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Who harms not his fellow man,

nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;

by whom the reprobate is despised,

while he honors those who fear the LORD.

One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Who lends not his money at usury

and accepts no bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

shall never be disturbed.

One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

READING II

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Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27

Dearest brothers and sisters:

All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,

coming down from the Father of lights,

with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.

He willed to give us birth by the word of truth

that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you

and is able to save your souls.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.

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.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 212 Over the centuries, Israel’s faith was able to manifest and deepen realization of the riches contained in the revelation of the divine name. God is unique; there are no other gods besides him.1 He transcends the world and history. He made heaven and earth: “They will perish, but you endure; they will all wear out like a garment. .. but you are the same, and your years have no end.”2 In God “there is no variation or shadow due to change.”3 God is “HE WHO IS”, from everlasting to everlasting, and as such remains ever faithful to himself and to his promises.

CCC 2208 The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”4

CCC 2642 The Revelation of “what must soon take place,” the Apocalypse, is borne along by the songs of the heavenly liturgy5 but also by the intercession of the “witnesses” (martyrs).6 The prophets and the saints, all those who were slain on earth for their witness to Jesus, the vast throng of those who, having come through the great tribulation, have gone before us into the Kingdom, all sing the praise and glory of him who sits on the throne, and of the Lamb.7 In communion with them, the Church on earth also sings these songs with faith in the midst of trial. By means of petition and intercession, faith hopes against all hope and gives thanks to the “Father of lights,” from whom “every perfect gift” comes down.8 Thus faith is pure praise.

1 Cf. Is 44:6.

2 Ps 102:26-27.

3 Jas 1:17.

4 Jas 1:27.

5 Cf. Rev 4:8-11; 5:9-14; 7:10-12.

6 Rev 6:10.

7 Cf. Rev 18:24; 19:1-8.

8 Jas 1:17.

APPLICATION

The letter of St. James to his fellow-Jewish converts to Christianity is full of sound practical advice. Today’s extract recalls to his readers’ minds how indebted they are to the good God. It was he who gave them every gift of mind and body which they possess. Furthermore, as Jews they were given a limited revelation of himself, but now as Christians they have received, through Christ, all the revelation and helps they need to reach eternal life. They have been given the Christian gospel and the Christian faith and they have the honor of being the first to receive this divine gift.

The practical St. James, however, reminds them that they must use these gifts properly if they are to profit by them. They would be deceiving themselves badly if they thought they would earn heaven by simply professing their faith in God and his Son, Jesus Christ. They must act according to that faith; they must live as adopted sons of God and brothers of Christ by keeping and putting into daily practice the commandments they have learned from the gospel. They must as he says: “be doers of the word and not hearers only.” In this he was but following his divine Master’s warning: “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

The Apostle then mentions two things that they must do in order to be truly Christian, truly religious in God’s sight. They must care for the needy among them. He mentions orphans and widows as those most likely to be in need of help–spiritual and material. They must avoid the sinful practices of the worldly people among whom they were living, This means that they must put the law of love of neighbor into daily practice and they must preserve interior moral purity in the midst of the moral laxity which then prevailed.

This letter of St. James, written about nineteen hundred years ago for the Christians of that day, has still a valuable lesson for us of the 21st century. We. too, need to be reminded often that the gifts of mind and body which we are fortunate to have are not our own–we did not give them to ourselves. We owe our existence and every natural and supernatural gift we possess to the good God who created us. He brought us into being, he gave us life in this world, in order to give us eternal life hereafter; for this reason he has given us the Christian faith which is the one and only true explanation of man’s life on this earth.

We are surely privileged then for we have the true explanation of this life and a firm hope and divine promise of an unending future happy life. But we must never forget that in order to merit this divine promise we have a positive role to play: we must be Christians in practice. Being a Christian is like having a passport for heaven, but having a passport will not get one to the destination he wants to reach; he must take all the necessary steps to reach his desired goal. True, the Christian has divine assistance and aid in taking all these necessary steps, but he must cooperate with it. In other words, he must put the gospel teaching into practice every day of his life.

This is not beyond his strength; if it were, Christ would not have demanded it of him. Since St. James’ day, millions have followed his sound advice and have reached heaven. The vast majority of them did nothing extraordinary–they kept their consciences at peace with God, avoiding the sinful temptations of this world. If they had an occasional lapse in a moment of weakness, they returned quickly to their loving Father. They loved God and proved that love by helping God’s other children who needed help. If we keep these two commandments of love for God and love for our neighbor–the essence of the Christian gospel–we too will find heaven’s gates open to us when our journey through this life ends.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan and used with permission by Ignatius Press.

GOSPEL

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Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem

gathered around Jesus,

they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals

with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.

–For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,

do not eat without carefully washing their hands,

keeping the tradition of the elders.

And on coming from the marketplace

they do not eat without purifying themselves.

And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,

the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —

So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,

“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders

but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”

He responded,

“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.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them,

“Hear me, all of you, and understand.

Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;

but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“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.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/090218.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 574 From the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, certain Pharisees and partisans of Herod together with priests and scribes agreed together to destroy him.1 Because of certain acts of his expelling demons, forgiving sins, healing on the sabbath day, his novel interpretation of the precepts of the Law regarding purity, and his familiarity with tax collectors and public sinners2 – some ill-intentioned persons suspected Jesus of demonic possession.3 He is accused of blasphemy and false prophecy, religious crimes which the Law punished with death by stoning.4

CCC 582 Going even further, Jesus perfects the dietary law, so important in Jewish daily life, by revealing its pedagogical meaning through a divine interpretation: “Whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him… (Thus he declared all foods clean.)… What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts. ..”5 In presenting with divine authority the definitive interpretation of the Law, Jesus found himself confronted by certain teachers of the Law who did not accept his interpretation of the Law, guaranteed though it was by the divine signs that accompanied it.6 This was the case especially with the sabbath laws, for he recalls, often with rabbinical arguments, that the sabbath rest is not violated by serving God and neighbor,7 which his own healings did.

CCC 1764 The passions are natural components of the human psyche; they form the passageway and ensure the connection between the life of the senses and the life of the mind. Our Lord called man’s heart the source from which the passions spring.8

CCC 2197 The fourth commandment opens the second table of the Decalogue. It shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority.

1 Cf. Mk 3:6; 14:1.

2 Cf. Mt 12:24; Mk 2:7,14-17; 3:1-6; 7:14-23.

3 Cf. Mk 3:22; Jn 8:48; 10:20.

4 Cf. Mk 2:7; Jn 5:18; 7:12, 52; 8:59; 10:31, 33.

5 Mk 7:18-21; cf. Gal 3:24.

6 Cf. Jn 5:36; 10:25, 37-38; 12:37.

7 Cf. Num 28 9; Mt 12:5; Mk 2:25-27; Lk 13:15-16; 14:3-4; Jn 7:22-24., 8 Cf. Mk 7:21.

APPLICATION

When Christ came on earth the Scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Jews. The Scribes, so called because of their knowledge of the Mosaic Law and the traditions added on to it, were the elite among the Pharisees who prided themselves on their strict, rigorous observance of the Law and the human traditions. The Pharisees had no time or no understanding for their fellow-Jews who often violated the scribal traditions–and even the Law of Moses itself sometimes. For this reason they kept themselves apart from the ordinary people and developed a proud superiority complex. They performed many acts of virtue but their pride and sense of self-sufficiency vitiated their good deeds (see the description of the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer in the temple, in Lk. 18: 10-14). The opposition of the Pharisees and Scribes to Jesus began very early in his public life. It grew in strength daily until, with the help of the Sadducees, their arch-opponents, they finally nailed him to the cross.

The main reason why they opposed him so bitterly was his mercy, kindness and understanding for sinners. He ate with tax-gatherers and made one of them, Levi, an Apostle. He forgave the adulteress and many, many others. While he certainly did not approve of sin, he never uttered a hard word against any sinner. He had come, as he said, to call sinners to himself and to repentance. This he did all through his public life. He objected to the Pharisees, not because of their strict observance of the Mosaic Law nor of their insistence on human traditions–although they sometimes carried this to an intolerable extreme. He objected because they despised the lowly people, the uneducated in the law and traditions–those, in other words, who did not belong to their own exclusive class. To the Pharisees all these were “sinners,” while they themselves had the worst sin of all–the original sin of mankind, the sin of pride.

In today’s encounter with the Pharisees, Jesus tells them that they are hypocrites: “they honor God with their lips but their heart is far from God”; they obey the Law and the traditions, not to please God, but to be seen and admired by men; their motive, self-glorification, vitiates every otherwise good act they perform. Christ then addresses the people–the crowds who most likely had overheard his dialog with the Pharisees–and he tells them that it is not legal or cultic uncleanliness that matters, but cleanliness of the heart before God. Eating with unwashed hands, or using unwashed vessels for drinking, does not defile a man, this does not make him less worthy before God. It is not from things outside him that a man incurs defilement but from his own innermost self. Every serious sin against God and neighbor has its beginning within a man, in his intellect and will; the evil design is the forerunner and instigator of the evil deed.

The Pharisees should have known all this. They did know it. They knew very well that before a man breaks any of the commandments of God he must first plan and decide to break it; it was not their theology that was defective but their practice. They despised their neighbors and called fellowman “sinners,” because through ignorance they violated many of the man-made precepts the Pharisees had added to the Law of Moses. There were also fellow-Jews of theirs who violated the law itself, but it was not their right to judge or condemn much less excommunicate them, as they so often did in practice.

Christ condemned the Pharisees by word and deed. He was merciful, kind and understanding to all sinners. He forgave sin and promised forgiveness to all who would repent of their past misdeeds. Not only that: for he left to his followers for all time his sacrament of mercy and forgiveness, by means of which they could have their sins forgiven by his minister, acting in his name. Should we ever forget all he has done for us and disobey in a serious way any of his commandments, let us remember that we are not excluded from his company as the sinners were excluded by the Pharisees: we have banged the door on ourselves but he has given us the key with which to reopen it. Let us never be so foolish as to fail to use that key.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press

BENEDICTUS

The Paralysis of Sin

The paralyzed man is the image of every human being whom sin prevents from moving about freely, from walking on the path of good and from giving the best of himself.  Indeed, by taking root in the soul, evil binds the person with the ties of falsehood, anger, envy, and other sins and gradually paralyzes him.  Jesus, therefore, scandalizing the scribes who were present, first said “…your sins are forgiven.”  Only later, to demonstrate the authority to forgive sins that God had conferred upon him, did he add: “Stand up!  Pick up your mat and go home? (Mk 2: 11), and heals the man completely.  The message is clear: human beings, paralyzed by sin, need God’s mercy which Christ came to give to them so that, their hearts healed, their whole life might flourish anew.  Today too, humanity is marked by sin which prevents it from rapidly progressing in those values of brotherhood, justice, and peace that with solemn declarations it had resolved to practice.  Why?  What is blocking it?  What is paralyzing this integral development?  We know well that there are many historical reasons for this and that the problem is complex.  But the Word of God invites us to have a gaze of faith and to trust, like the people who were carrying the paralytic, that Jesus alone is capable of true healing… Only God’s love can renew the human heart, and only if he heals the heart of paralyzed humanity can it get up and walk.  The love of God is the true force that renews the world.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5: 1-12

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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