Friday, August 27 2021
Our first lesson from the Book of Deuteronomy has the prophet entreating Israel to be faithful to the laws given them by God Himself. He tells them never forget and be faithful in teaching their children, what God has done for them. I believe we are all prone to be forgetful in the little things of life. We look for our glasses for 10 minutes, only to realize that they were on our head the whole time. Or look for our keys but eventually realize they were in our pocket. God’s immanence — meaning ‘within’ or ‘nearness’ — says that God is like that. Even as you search for God, God is already near. In reality you already have Him, your search is over.
Today’s second lesson from St. James’ letter to the 12 tribes of Israel is filled with very practical advice and counsel. He is encouraging them to be intentional about living out their faith. St. James entreats them to practice what they hear and believe. Those who only listen to the Word are like a person who sees the face he inherited from his family in a mirror, and when he turns from that image forgets what sort of person he is. Have you ever thought about what your life would be like without a mirror? Seriously: What would we do without mirrors? Similarly, we can't get along without God's Word. We absolutely need it. And we must heed it. If we only hear the Word and do not practice it, we, too, forget what kind of people we are – namely, people who have been birthed by God and therefore people who have the responsibility to do what the Word of God says. The one who fixes attention on the law will become a doer, and in that doing will be blessed.
Our Gospel from St. Mark, once again relates a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees. Some of Jesus' disciples were more orthodox in their Jewish practices while other disciples were less strict in their observance of washing rituals. It seems to be a trivial thing – not eating with clean hands. Although our moms may agree with the Pharisees here. But the real issue is not hygiene but popularity. These religious leaders see Jesus as a rival – surely motivated in part by envy. They want to undermine his authority, scatter his followers, and in due course some even hope to kill him. In other words, the Pharisees and scribes are hungry for what Germans call Schadenfreude, pleasure at the downfall of another, a feeling that is particularly savory when the other is a populist figure or seen as an adversary.
Jesus reinforces his denunciation of the Pharisees and scribes when he addresses the crowd. Simply put, neither unwashed hands nor food bought at the market nor ceremonially unclean pots and dishes contaminate a person. Rather, a person is polluted by his or her own thoughts, which originate inside and then radiate out. However, it should be clear that Jesus is not denying the existence of outside influences that defile us. If anything, interior evil thoughts and outside evil influences form an inseparable nexus that defiles, degrades and ultimately destroys the divine goodness (i.e., imago Dei) God gives to each individual.
-- Cn. Richard