YEAR B : HOMILY FOR THE 22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: Law of God or Traditions of the Ancients
BY: Fr. Emmanuel Uchechukwu Muodebelu C.S.Sp.
(Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8; James 1:17-18,21b-22, 27; Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23).
There has been a strong tension between the authentic Christian Law of God and the traditional custom of every society, from the time of Jesus Christ.This struggle has not stopped up to this our present generation. This has even gave rise to the division of opinions among Christians. Some Christians rise to the defense of the custom their ancestors against the teaching of their Church. Their reason is that, they inherited the custom from their ancestors therefore, they will not allow it to die. Some will tell you that, the custom has been there before the Church came. Such was the attitude in which Jesus addressed today.
In the Gospel of today, Jesus did not condemn the law of Moses concerning washing of hands before eating. He simply defended the Spirit of the law which centers on self cleansing. The Scribes and Pharisees were holding the outward sign of the law but, Jesus went beyond external ritual observances. The Pharisees saw washing of hand as a way of cleansing therefore were very serious in keeping it. For Jesus, what matters is the salvation of our soul and not empty ritual observances.
Child of God,There are many values we hold in our different cultures as Christians that when the Church tries to either talk about or correct them, we go contrary to the teaching of the Church. Our reason is that it is the law of our ancestors. Those of us who do such things are what Jesus called hypocrites in the Gospel of today. Have we really asked ourselves what values have these customs contributed in our salvation? Or do we just practise them as empty rituals? Jesus is telling us today that, it is not by observing these laws or rituals that make us clean. For him, there is nothing outside a human person which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. For from within, out of the heart of a person, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. Why should we observe these customs and yet no repentance from our heart. For Isaiah 29:13 said "this people honours me with their lips, but their heart is evil, is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men." The question for us today is, do we prefer the custom of our ancestors over the law of God, or do we prefer the salvation of our souls? Do we keep the law of God or the custom our ancestors handed over to us? We cannot be Christians and at the same be none Christians.
In the first reading, the Lord spoke to the Israelites through Moses, telling them to keep the commandments of God so that, they can take the possession of the land He promised them. He told them not to add or remove anything from it. It is by keeping this commandments that you show your wisdom, and people will know that your God is near to you. The summary of God's commandments is the love of God, and the love of our neighbour. Loving our neighbour is sometimes one of the difficult things to do. It is not always easy because there are those who are difficult to be loved. But as Christians, we do not have an alternative because this is the commandments of God. When we love our neighbour, we can not do or think of evil against him or her.
Friend, st James tells us today that, every good endowment perfect gift come from God. He therefore, encourages us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves. For him, 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.
Child of God, what does religion represent in your life? Is it just a mere ritual that your forefathers handed over to you? Is it just going to church on Sundays and observe the Church rules without spiritual meaning and love of neighbour? Is it just a social norm? Or, is it really a means of having an encounter with your God by way of establishing the love of God towards your neighbour? When we are able to answer these questions and apply them into our lives, then we are sure of our own salvation. Any commandment or societal law that does not promote love and preservation of human soul does not have a place in the sight of God. Let us move away from an empty tradition and abide in the love of Christ. Either Jesus or nothing. Jesus is our all. God bless you my beloved. Happy Sunday
Fr Emmanuel Uchechukwu Muodebelu C.S.Sp.