Sunday, 2 September 2012
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Shaftesbury
Mk 7:1-23; Dt 4:1-8
We just heard Jesus give hard words of condemnation, and I don’t know if you’ve ever stopped to think what Jesus will condemn YOU for, but today’s readings give us ONE category: The Pharisees were condemned for ranking their human traditions over the commandments of God. Now, we might think that that doesn’t apply to us –after all, how many of us follow Pharisaic customs like washing up to the elbow, sprinkling ourselves on returning from the marketplace, and scrub our bronze cups? I don’t even have any bronze cups!
But in our society today there are a great many OTHER human traditions that are ranked above the commandments of God. And there are many other gods that are ranked above the one Lord.
There is the god of money, and the tradition of placing our private concerns and desires over the greater needs of the poor, and our neighbour.
There is the god of freedom, and the tradition of not letting anything interfere with my “rights”, the tradition of not letting anyone tell me what to do.
There is the god of convenience, and the tradition of doing right ONLY when it is convenient. Like only going to Mass on Sunday when it doesn’t interfere with other things I want to do.
There is the god of tolerance, and the tradition of not believing in an objective truth, and objective standards of behaviour, in right and wrong, in sin. The contemporary human tradition of endorsing perversion as so-called “alternative lifestyles”. The tradition of ranking political correctness over the Bible, the Church, and the words of Jesus Christ himself. Jesus called re-marriage after divorce “adultery”, but the tradition of our English society calls it normal.
There is the god of sex, and the tradition of seeing physical pleasures as the entire purpose of life, and not wanting any strings attached.
The bulk of our society today thinks that it knows better than the commands of God, and it knows better because it calls itself “modern”. Modern society is so much better and wiser that it has produced a world where families are under such pressure that half end in divorce, where children are offered so little direction that many seek escape in drugs, or more mundane things like endless TV and non-stop Game Boys.
There is nothing wrong with money, sex, freedom, tolerance and convenience –all these are gifts of God, but they are not gods to be worshiped as ends in themselves.
There is a real God, and an authentic Tradition. The authentic Tradition is to be found in keeping to the commandments of God, and they are not hard to find. They were given in Jesus Christ, and Jesus established and infallibly guides His Catholic Church to teach these commandments to us. And as our first reading from Deuteronomy (4:6) said, “No other people is as wise and prudent” as those who keep the commands of the Lord. No other people has “laws and customs to match” (4:8) with the wisdom of the morality Christ’s Church calls us to. No other people “has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to Him”(4:7).
You may worship the god of money, but it is not a faithful god, it can leave you at a moments notice. It may seem attractive, but it is a false and faithless god. And the same can be said of all false gods.
The commands of God may seem hard, and we know that we sin and fail to live up to them. But that is not enough of a reason to turn from them and follow modern human customs instead. If we sin and fail He will forgive us as often as repent and turn back to Him. It is only if we give up on Him and His law, and devote ourselves instead to other gods, and follow modern human customs instead, that the condemnation of the Pharisees will then apply to us. The Lord gives us His Law because it is the way to life and wholeness. What He asks is that we seek to follow it.