YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
TOPIC: INTERNAL PURITY
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Message # 461: “The Gate Which Opens”
1. The Marian Message
a. The message of the Blessed Mother is on the feast of her Immaculate Conception. Being the Immaculate Conception, she is “the most pure reflection of the light, the love and the holiness of God” (letter a). Because of this, she was made “ready to fulfill my virginal and maternal purpose of being the Gate of Heaven: “Janua Coeli” (letter a).
b. She is the Gate that opens up to hope (letter b). When mankind was in the quagmire of sin, due to the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God gave hope to man with a promise of victory over the abysmal serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. She will crush your head. While you strike at her heel.” Being the Woman chosen by God since eternity, she brings hope to mankind for she will give her Son, the Savior of the world. That is why she is also referred to as the Morning Star, announcing the advent of the Dawn of Salvation.
c. She is the Gate that opens up to God’s greatest gift to mankind, Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind (letter c). It is through Mary, the Gate, that Jesus Christ passed into humanity. It is, in fact, from Mary’s humanity that Jesus took his humanity. It was through Mary that God gave us His Son, Jesus.
d. She is the Gate, which opens up to salvation (letter d). She is the “true Mother of all humanity. Only if you pass through this, my Gate, can you gain entrance into the heavenly garden of mortification and penance, of faith and prayer, of humility and purity, of charity and sanctity.” Indeed, “Ad Jesum per Mariam” (To Jesus through Mary).
e. She is the Gate, which opens upon the new era (letter e). We live in an era of sin, impurity, deception and confusion. And many are led away from God and into eternal damnation. But this era is about to end. With the triumph of her Immaculate Heart that coincides with the victory of the Eucharistic Jesus, a new era is coming upon the world. Mary is the Gate of this new era, and so she is called the Mother of the Second Advent: “Just as, by means of me, Jesus has come to you in the fragility and humility of his human nature, so too, again by means of me, Jesus will return to you in the splendor of his glory, to restore his kingdom in the world.”
f. The Blessed Mother urges us to enter into her Immaculate Heart; to live in prayer and confidence as we await the Second Advent of her glorious Son. Entering into her Immaculate Heart simply means living according to her example of total purity, obedience and holiness. Then we are ready to welcome Jesus in his Second Coming.
2. The Sunday Gospel
a. The Jews have the tradition of ritual purification of hands, cups, kettles, etc. They are so concerned about being clean and blameless before God. They have identified many situations, which would render them unclean: foods, lepers, woman after childbirth, and the ritually unpurified hands and cooking and dining implements.
b. Unfortunately, since according to the evaluation of Jesus, the Jewish leaders were hypocrites and selfish, they have reduced ritual purification to the level of the externals only, devoid of any internal cleansing. They did not mind if the person is a public sinner, provided he has done the ritual cleansing, and therefore, worthy to take part in the public worship.
c. Jesus reminded his listeners that God looks into the heart. It is the heart that makes a person unclean, and not what is external. God abhors hypocrisy (the Greek word means “actor”) for He can read the hearts and motives of each one. Hence, a hypocrite honors God “with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (God)” (v. 6). Their worship is in vain.
d. Observing external precepts are supposed to be expressions of what is in the heart. There is the classic quotation: “Ex abundancia cordis, os loquitur” (From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks). That is why we Filipinos would say: “Nahuhuli ang isda sa bibig.” But for hypocrites, this is not the case. What they say and do are not what is in their heart – they are actors. But God cannot be fooled, for He knows the deepest recesses of man’s heart.
e. Jesus, therefore, warns us against hypocrisy. We may be able to fool men sometimes, but we cannot fool God. Everything we do, especially in our spiritual life, should be from the heart, and not for show. Otherwise, everything will be rendered totally worthless, and these may even be taken against us.
f. Jesus also reminds us of genuine purification, and this is of the heart. In the Beatitudes, he said: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” In her message, the Blessed Mother invites us to be pure and clean of heart like her, the Immaculate Conception, so that, like her, we also become clear and true reflections of the beauty and purity of God.
3. Points for Reflection
a. A human being is composed of body and soul. But since the soul is invisible, many do not give attention to it. We take care of our bodies by eating healthy foods, exercising and by beautifying it. Yet we do not exert any effort to do the same with our soul. In such a case, we become less human, because a true human being is the healthy combination and balance of the body and soul. Taking less attention on one area reduces the integrity of our human life. Just as we condemn as less human the condition of those living in abject poverty and destitution, so also must we condemn the condition of people living in the darkness of sin and spiritual misery for it is equally dehumanizing.
b. People are concerned about their external appearance. In fact, most of us are willing to spend lots of money and undergo cosmetic surgeries just to maintain our young looks. We grow old, but we hate to look old. We think that a young and beautiful external appearance is a sure indicator of a good personality. What many do not realize is that if our internal condition is not in conformity with our external appearance, we turn out to be the worst and obnoxious person. This is what the Lord is saying in the Gospel. It is not his external looks that makes a person dirty and unpleasant but his internal condition – his attitudes, motivations, spiritual life and his soul. A woman may have won the title of Miss Universe because of her spectacular beauty and wit, but if she is selfish and greedy, she becomes unattractive and disgusting.
c. Jesus has invariably condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. The sin of hypocrisy simply means the discrepancy of the external with the internal; the non-conformity of what we manifest externally with what we have internally in our hearts and minds. Unfortunately, this sin is very common among us. There is no transparency in our personality, and we become like actors. In common parlance, we call such people “plastic”, meaning that they are not authentic, and in the face of intense pressure and heat, they readily melt and expose their true colors. We have become experts in building a beautiful and formidable facade that nobody can penetrate and decipher what is inside. But we are warned: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but God looks into the heart” (1Sam 16:7). We cannot hide from God; He can see the innermost recesses of our heart. That is why hypocrisy will just make us look worse in the eyes of God. Instead of trying to put up a nice facade, the Lord invites us to be more true to ourselves. In that way, we become single-hearted and pure of heart. In the Beatitudes, Jesus said: “Blessed are the clean (pure) of heart for they will see God” (Mt 5:8). Who are those with clean hearts? In Psalm 24, it says, “Who may go up the mountain of the Lord? Who can stand in his holy place? The clean of hand and pure of heart, who are not devoted to idols, who have not sworn falsely” (Ps 24: 3-4). Any kind of pretense and false appearance will always work against us in the eyes of God.
d. The Philippines is a very religious country. This is if we judge on the number of churches in the country and the great volume of churchgoers on Sundays. But does this mean that we are such a God-loving nation? Does this mean we are law-abiding people of God? On the contrary. We see rampant violations of the laws of God. There is the endemic and chronic corruption in our political system, abuses against basic human rights, offenses against human life, and many other sins. We are a religious people: we go to Church, we receive Holy Communion, we have fiestas and observe holy days of obligation, and we join processions and do a lot of novenas. But all these remain on the outside and do not have real impact on our life as a nation. This is shown in the fact that, at the same time, we also commit fraud during elections, we kill babies in abortion, we tell lies, we slander our neighbors and superiors, we cheat in our business dealings, we maintain mistresses and concubines. And to top it all, we announce to all and sundry that we are Catholics! Hindi na tayo nahiya! And that is the worst. We give scandal to our neighboring non-Christian nations, exposing our Christian faith to embarrassment. We stand out as the only Christian nation in Asia, but by showing such a bad example, it is natural for non-Christians to think and conclude that Christianity is a religion that allows hypocrisy and double standards; that Christianity is the reason why our country does not prosper. Consequently, we render nugatory all the teachings of Christ and we forfeit our role as the beacon of light in this part of the world.
e. What really make us unclean are sins: “all these evils come from within and they defile” (Mk 7:23). The deadly sins are called capital sins. “Capital” means head, and capital sins are the sources of many other sins. There are seven capital sins: pride, envy, anger, greed, gluttony, lust and sloth. It would always be very helpful to examine the condition of our spiritual life based on the list of capital sins. There are three steps to combat these capital sins. First is the sacrament of Confession. Each capital sin is a grave mortal sin. It is enough to render our soul lifeless since it cuts off our relationship with God. The sacrament of Confession absolves these sins and restores our relationship with God and we regain our life. The second step is the development and strengthening of the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. Add to these the more basic virtues of humility, simplicity, docility and total dependence on God. These virtues make us stronger in our fight against sin and vices. But these are from our own efforts and determination. We need God’s help and graces. So, we have to go to the next step. The third step is to ask God’s graces. There are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord (Is. 11:1-2). And there are also the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, faith, patient endurance, generosity, gentleness and chastity (Gal. 5:22).
With genuinely contrite hearts, let us humbly ask God’s mercy and pardon by singing “Panginoon, Maawa Ka.”
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR THE B.E.C.
1. Sa pagsusuri ng aking sarili batay sa pitong Capital Sins, alin diyan ang pinakamabigat na hamon sa akin?
2. Bakit maraming tao ang nahihirapang magpaka-totoo? Ano ang mga dahilan kung bakit madalas tayo ay nagsisinungaling at nagkukunwari?
3. Sino ba talaga ang dapat sisihin sa patuloy na katiwalian at kabulukan ng ating bansa?