Homily 22nd Sunday of Year B: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Deut 4:1-2,6-8; Ps 15:2-5; James 1:17-18,21b-22,27; Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23
Putting God’s Word into Practice
In our Christian faith, hearing the Word of God, bearing witness, putting God’s Words into practice, keeping his commandments, as we all know could be very challenging. Think of the 10 commandments, the Church’s laws, Christian ethics, and the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy: praying for the sick, visiting them, lending a helping hand to the needy, option for the poor, orphans, the widows, the seniors, holding the door of an elevator for someone on a wheelchair, forgiving those who have offended us, promoting social justice, obedience to God, spirituality from within, and loving our neighbors as a whole. This is what Moses, who occupies a unique place in Israel’s faith journeys attempted to drive home in the first reading, and Jesus, the new Moses would push the same message in the Gospel.
The first reading (Deut 4:1-2, 6-8) is parenetic and updates old laws in Exodus. Moses, a great teacher, a prophet and an outstanding leader reminds Israel whom he leads those basic conditions for reaching that Promised Land. Hearing, doing the word of God, practicing justice, walking blamelessly before the Lord- all these, Psalm 15 also confirms.
St. James would call this a “religion that is pure and undefiled before God.” For him there is purity and holiness in inclusivity. There is holiness in caring for the orphans and widows. Assisting or reaching out for those who are afflicted in one way or the others have nothing to do with defilement! They are heroic Christian acts. There is also holiness in combining interior spirituality with faith and good works of all kinds, “Mary and Martha.” They are not contradictory. And hypocrisy for him is not holiness or acts of pure religion!
This is what Christ; the new Moses confronted the Pharisees and the Scribes with, in the gospel reading. They include inauthentic, man made traditions that stops at externalism, but devoid of internalism, interior conversions, faith, hope, love and not willing to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers and sisters or refuse to be prophetic is not good enough. The analogy of Christ fits; washing of our hands, external drinking cups, jugs or kettles while neglecting their filthy inside does not make sense. Drinks from such cups, jugs and kettles with filthy insides are dangerous to our health. But we all care for our health! Thanks be to God!
Also Caring for others sincerely from the depths of our hearts, with great humility and love, and not harming them are the best ways to “wash Christian hands, cups, jugs and kettles.” Lips services are not good enough. As we sing praises to the Lord, this day we want to do it from the bottom of our hearts. And we want our praises and worship to always reflect the way we respect, love and live with one another! This is truly putting God’s words and his precepts (hadevarim) into practice!