22nd Sunday Year B
2018 (2 Sept)
Deacon Les Ruhrmund
Before we look at the readings we have been encouraged by our Archbishop to recognise on this weekend, the significance of Earth Day which is celebrated today.
Earth Day is a reminder to us that we must do more to care for our ‘Mother Earth’, as Pope Francis calls it. The situation is critical and we are approaching the point of no return from which it will be impossible to reverse the devastating consequences of pollution, global warming and climate change on our environment and on humanity.
Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si (Praise be to you, my Lord!) on the environment and human ecology reminds us that we are stewards of the earth, and suggests that we must care for it as we would for a sister. He writes “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. …There are symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”
God is the Master of creation. He is the Lord of all and He has entrusted the earth to us – to care for it and for all living things. We are directed in scripture to be responsible stewards of all that God has created. In everything we do we should keep in mind that we are privileged human beings living in God’s creation, caring and working always to nourish life; in the sea and the rivers, on the lands and the forests.
We seem to be on the road to self-destruction. We’re destroying our environment, we’re destroying entire species of animals, plants and sea life, and we’re pollution the air, the seas and our rivers with plastic and waste.
This is not news. We’re being presented with catastrophic evidence of this on an almost daily basis. But it’s all meaningless and ineffective – just hot air – unless we respond with some sort of remedial action.
We each have the God entrusted responsibility and obligation to do whatever we can in our own small way: reduce wastage of water and other precious resources, avoid plastic as far as possible, never pour cooking oil, fat or grease down the sink, only use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, recycle whatever we can, check that our car tyres are properly inflated to consume less fuel, quit smoking, and there are very many other ways to make a contribution in the fight to protect, nurture and preserve Mother Earth who is slowly being smothered by our reckless disregard for her health.
In the first reading Moses, addressing the people he has brought out of slavery in Egypt, speaks of the fundamental loyalty that is essential to Israel’s unique relationship with God. He says that obedience to the commandments of God is the key. He’s referring to the 10 Commandments he received from God on Mount Sinai.
The 10 Commandments are the GPS on our journey to fulfilling the loving covenant we have entered into with God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; the GPS co-ordinates to heaven. The commandments prescribe how we are to relate and interact with God and with each other; with our neighbour. When we ignore the guidance and promptings of this GPS, ignore the teachings of the 10 Commandments, we lose our way and all too soon find ourselves lost in the wilderness.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus turns the challenge from the Pharisees and scribes about the manner in which his disciples prepared to eat bread, into a wide-sweeping exposure and criticism of their ‘lip-service’ interpretation of God’s commandments.
Understanding Jesus’s words to the Pharisees and to his disciples in terms that would be pertinent to us today, Jesus is saying:
• While we might appear to be Christian on the outside, we might well be quite evil on the inside.
• We can go to Mass regularly, avoid obviously offensive or sinful behaviour in public, while entertaining unkind and cruel thoughts of prejudice, intolerance, anger, bitterness and dishonesty in private
• That’s the hypocrisy that Jesus is talking about.
As the old saying goes, unless we live according to what we believe, we will soon start believing in accordance with how we live.
We can never consider ourselves better than any other person, no matter their lifestyle or circumstances, simply because our sins are less visible.
Jesus goes on to teach the crowd a revolutionary doctrine which puts him at odds with his own religious tradition. He says that it’s not what or how we eat that makes a person clean or unclean; only that which comes from our hearts.
External things like food don’t make us evil; it is our actions, as conscious choices, which reveal whether we are actually living according to God’s commandments.
Our beliefs don’t make us good people or good disciples, our actions do. We don’t make a difference in the world by going to church. We will only make a difference to the world by being the church.
Jesus accuses the Pharisees of disregarding the commandments of God so that they won’t be inconvenienced in following their man-made conventions. That’s an ever more difficult challenge for us as Christians – and particularly for Catholics – in a world that expects the church to ‘get with it’ and change its apostolic teachings rooted in the revelations of Christ and follow the road designed by a self-centred society.
We live in a world that largely relegates the role of God and his commandments to the sideliners suggesting that obedience to God is a fanciful option.
It isn’t and the sorry state of our world stands as stark testimony to that truth.