Homily Twenty-Second Sunday Year B Follow the Word of God

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Homily Twenty-Second Sunday Year B
Reading 1
Moses reminded the people that the Commandments are from the Lord, who delivered them from the bondage of Egypt. God likewise promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. As a result, they were to observe the Commandments without adding, subtracting or interpreting them to their own choosing.

He also reminded them that by observing the Commandments carefully, the people will be glorifying God, the source of the Commandments and show how wise and intelligent the people are. For God is not a distant God but close to the people whenever they call upon him.

How did the people respond? By and large they did not obey the commands of the Lord. Over the centuries, people interpreted the Commandments to fit their own needs. And we have done the same. Even though the Commandments say “You shall have no other god before you” how many created things have become our gods?  How often the name and person of God is not held with awe and respect? How have we come to keeping holy the Lord’s Day out of obligation and not out of love, when Mass is an option not primary? How have we come to justify our actions that are wrong and sinful so as to look good in the eyes of others? 

We need to reflect on the Commandments on a deeper level to see how really we are basing our lives on them and where we are not.

Reading 2:
James reminds us that all the good gifts we have are from God. The first gift he reflects on is that of life. The second is the Sacred Word of God which is the revealed truth of God. Do we humbly welcome the Word of God given to us, as we hear it each Sunday? Do we believe that this Word is able to save us and bring us into the fullness of eternal life? Are we doers of the Word and not just hearers? 

It is easy for any of us to know the truth but not act on the truth. It is easy to know what is the right thing to do and choose not to do that which is right.  The present crisis in the Church over the sexual abuse of children is a prime example. What should have been done and what was done do not match against the Word of God and the Commandments. Paraphrasing James and applying it to the present situation, we could say: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for most vulnerable.”
Besides the Commandments and precepts, over the centuries some of the teachers of the Law would further expand and interpret the Law to the point there were over 600 different statutes which people were expected to follow to the letter. Ritual purity became more important than the basic Ten Commandments.

In the Gospel, the Pharisees identified these precepts as traditions of the elders. But Jesus goes to the core of the problem. External rather internal actions is the focus for the Pharisees. Lip service rather than commitment of the heart.  Jesus said that they placed these many precepts on the same level as the Divine Commandments.

Like the Pharisees how easy is it for us to go through the motions of piety and worship externally but still not deal with the sin within. It is sin that defiles us no matter how often we utter praise on our lips. The acceptable sacrifice comes from a heart right with God.

Each of us has to regularly look at the evils within us, no matter what they are and begin to repent of them and choose to do that is right and just to change our past sinful behavior. And that is based on a sincere desire to be in right relationship to God according to his Word and Commands.

We can’t change the effects of our past wrongdoings but we can change how we do things today. Listening to the Word of God and acting on it has to be our motivation in all we do. It may not be popular or according to the norms of society. But we are called to follow a different path, to follow a different leader, God.

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