Homily August 30, 2015 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
As we listen to today’s gospel, we get almost a picture of some kind of lesson in hygiene. Through the centuries, the rabbis and the pharisees had developed many types of rituals for the purpose of being cleansed and to properly present themselves in the temple. Many of these rituals they had passed on to the people as laws to live their lives. One of these numerous laws was the notion of washing hands and anything that they were going to eat. In actuality, none of these prescriptions were a part of the mosaic law, and were actually added on by men and were far from the authentic law. Christ was harsh with the Pharisee’s criticism, for they were more concerned by what was the traditions of human origin than what was the actual law and revelation of God.
As an example growing up, I can remember back many years to first communion and the perception and teachings of my youth. I remember going to Mass when maybe twenty or thirty people went to communion out of a congregation of several hundred. People going to communion was so infrequent, that everyone had to be reminded of their Easter duty, which meant that everyone was obligated to receive communion at least once a year which was called their Easter Duty. . If we recall the last several weeks of John’s theology of the Eucharist, and the need for nourishment and food both physically and spiritually for our journey and for eternal life, Some where the authentic message of Jesus came to be seen differently over some centuries, and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist led people to conclude that they were not worth to receive it, when Christ’s message was that the Eucharist is what would make us worthy. It was clearly a case where human perception and human tradition lost the authentic teaching or at least a better understanding of it.
What this tells us is that we must closely look and pray and search out the Spirit to know that what is authentic comes ultimately from Christ and his Spirit who dwells within us. It is important always to avoid putting the human things before the Word and Spirit. Human laws and interpretations, while perhaps necessary, are human and finite. Christ calls for openness to the Spirit knowing truly what calls for our love and attention. Human things, thoughts, desires and other distractions can deprive us of a truly spiritual and fulfilling life. Human refinements and institutions and laws, while convenient for some reasons, are not always faithful to the Law of Christ’s love, nor quick to resolve issues with his forgiveness. History proves that following Christ can be easy, but at the same time it is challenging because it means giving up ourselves to love as he did. Life in the Spirit is hopefully what we do.