22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
29th August, 2021

 

Sunday Church at Home

during the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

 

The Law of God and the Traditions of the Ancients.

 

 

The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

 

Leader:          In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

All reply:        Amen

 

Leader:          Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

All reply:        Blessed be God for ever

 

Leader:          We gather as people who have chosen to serve the Lord, chosen to walk the Christian way. We worship God who leads us on — and ask for strength to continue as we have begun.

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

 

First Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-2.6-8

 

Introduction to the reading: The book of Deuteronomy contains a lengthy farewell speech of Moses as the people prepared to enter the Promised Land. Moses makes it clear that they are expected to remain faithful to the Lord after they have settled in their new land.

 

A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy

Moses spoke to the people, saying,
“Now, O Israel, give heed to the statutes
and the ordinances which I teach you,
and do them; that you may live,
and go in and take possession of the land
which the Lord, the God of your ancestors, gives you.
You shall not add to the word which I command you,
nor take from it;
that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God
which I command you.

Keep them and do them;
for that will be your wisdom and your understanding
in the sight of the peoples,
who, when they hear all these statutes, will say,
‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’
For what great nation is there
that has a god so near to it
as the Lord our God is to us,
whenever we call upon him?
And what great nation is there,
that has statutes and ordinances so righteous
as all this law which I set before you this day?”

The word of the Lord.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 15:2-3a.3bc-4ab.5 (R. 1a)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. O Lord, who may abide in your tent?

Whoever walks without fault;
who does what is just,
and speaks the truth from his heart.
Who does not slander with his tongue.

Who does no wrong to a neighbour,
who casts no slur on a friend,
who looks with scorn on the wicked,
but honours those who fear the Lord.

Who lends no money at interest,
and accepts no bribes against the innocent.
Such a one shall never be shaken.

R/. O Lord, who may abide in your tent?

 

Second Reading: James 1:17-18.21b-22.27

Introduction to the reading: Today and for the next four Sundays, we will read passages from the letter of James. Two points will be helpful background to today’s passage. First: In the Jewish law, the first fruits of the harvest are given to God. This expresses the truth that the whole harvest ultimately belongs to God. Second: In the Old Testament, widows and orphans were classic examples of poor and defenseless people.

 

A reading from the Letter of Saint James

My dearest brothers and sisters:
Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights
with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Of his own will, he brought us forth by the word of truth
that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Receive with meekness the implanted word,
which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word,
and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Religion that is pure and undefiled
before God and the Father is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

The word of the Lord.

 

Alleluia, alleluia.
Of his own will, he brought us forth by the word of truth
that we should be a kind of first fruits of his.
Alleluia.

 

Gospel: Mark 7:1-8.14-15.21-23

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

At that time:
When the Pharisees gathered together to Jesus,
with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem,
they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled,
that is, unwashed.
(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews,
do not eat unless they wash their hands,
observing the tradition of the elders;
and when they come from the marketplace,
they do not eat unless they purify themselves;
and there are many other traditions which they observe,
the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze.)
And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him,
“Why do your disciples not live
according to the tradition of the elders,
but eat with hands defiled?”

And he said to them,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites,
as it is written,
‘This people honours me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
You leave the commandment of God,
and hold fast the tradition of men.”

And he called the people to him again, and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand:
there is nothing outside a person
which by going into him can defile him,
but the things which come out of a person are what defile him.”

For from within, out of the heart of a person,
come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery,
coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness,
envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

The Gospel of the Lord

 

 

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

 

Homily

Once a grouchy old priest was teaching a catechism class. He wanted to help the youngsters to understand what a Christian was, so he asked them a question. He asked, “Why do people call me a Christian?” There was a moment of silence and then one of the boys said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.” 😊

Moses and Jesus want us to have hearts committed to God.

Moses is speaking to the Israelites as they are about to enter the Promise Land. They have spent 40 years of wandering in the desert. This was a time when they were led by God and when their faith was tested and grew. He tells them that they are at a crucial point in their history and they must pause to reflect on their past and future.

Moses invites the people to consider, not only their physical journey, but their spiritual journey as well. He tells them to reflect on the God who has been with them and brought them to this point. Once again, as he did at Sinai, he is placing God’s law before them and is offering them another chance to choose God and God’s ways for their lives.

God’s law isn’t meant to be narrow and restrictive, Moses suggests to the people. Rather, observing the “statutes and decrees” will make them a wise and intelligent people, admired by all the other nations. And more, their greatness will reflect the God they have; it will announce to others that their God is close to them and available to them in prayer. The local gods of the other nations were demanding and instilled fear in their devotees, even requiring human sacrifice.

Moses said, “For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is close to us whenever we call on God?”

Moses wants the Israelites have a chance to draw on their past experiences of God and choose to stay with the God who has given them life. If they do renew their commitment to God, they have the obligation to live according to their God’s ways, then they will be a people admired by all; not because of their own gifts and abilities, but because of the great God who has chosen them and blessed them in wisdom’s path.

So, their commitment to God comes with an obligation – to follow God’s ways. This is an important principle to remember.

In South Africa we have a Bill of Rights which comprehensively protects the rights of all South Africans. What we need to remember is that every human right comes with an obligation as well. If I have a right to life, then I have an obligation to protect and defend the lives of others. Sadly there are some people who spread misinformation and lies about the covid-19 vaccination. They don’t want get vaccinated and try to persuade other people not to get vaccinated.

As Catholics, we have a moral obligation to get vaccinated for the common good. We are pro-life – which means we protect the lives of unborn babies. We also have the obligation to saving the lives of the poor, people with limited access to medical help, the aged, people with comorbidities? We do this by getting vaccinated. People are disproportionately dying because of our failure to vaccinate as an act of charity. I encourage us all to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The people of Israel made the commitment to follow God’s ways. To help them interpret and apply the Law, the people would need guidance. The ones who fulfilled this role were the priests, Levites and scribes.

A century or two before Christ, the first Pharisees emerged and became famous for their faithful interpretation and observance of the Law. They did their best to adapt the law to new political, religious and cultural situations. They tried to build a protective barrier around the Law to protect the people from all the temptation to abandon God. This protective barrier consisted of observances and rituals. Their intentions were noble; but of course, some got carried away.

The Pharisees are often shown as “bad guys” in the gospel. Almost every time they are around they are a cause for conflict with Jesus. But let’s give them their due. They seem to be sincere in the questions they pose to Jesus today about ritual purity. The surrounding non-Jewish world was very tempting to even faithful Jews. What helped the Jews’ keep faithful to God were deliberate and constant reminders in their daily lives, such as ritual washings.

By observing them and other daily rituals, they could express and be reminded that they had a specific religious identity; they were members of the chosen people. So, concerning ritual washings, we are not talking about a person’s hygienic practices, but the expressions of their religious commitment.

Jesus wasn’t critical of all the Pharisees, for like them, he too loved the Law and God’s covenant expressed in the Law. But Jesus wanted to lead people to the heart of the Law, the relationship it could foster with God. He wasn’t concerned with tiny details, the scrupulous observance of the externals that had no meaning for the ordinary Jew. Instead he wanted to show how to follow God, not in superficial ways, but in the deepest parts of our hearts, where we love and make our commitments.

Jesus, Moses and all the greatest religious leaders urge us to practice true religion – not just rituals and external observance. Jesus isn’t cancelling out the importance of acts of piety and external religious behaviour. But he does dismiss a holiness based on food laws and ritual cleansings.

If a person’s heart is in God and with God, one’s acts will be pure, whether or not one attends to proper ritual washing. The Pharisees felt threatened by Jesus. His teachings and manner of life showed that for him, holiness had nothing to do with superficial rituals. Jesus wants a heart turned towards God and, if that happens, a person will reflect holiness. Holiness means that before God, they are clean.

So how do Jesus’ words make us feel today sitting in our pews in worship?

Just because we are at church doing the proper thing, or watching Mass on YouTube or doing Sunday Church at Home, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get out hearts checked out.

We want to sincerely try to live during the week the faith we profess today. We want our hearts to reflect Jesus’ heart in his love of God and passion to do God’s will.

We want to look out at the world with eyes influenced by our cleansed hearts and feel compassion for those ignored by the chilled hearts of our society.

We want our hearts to be touched by the forgiveness Jesus offers us and then to offer that forgiveness to those who have offended us.

From today’s Deuteronomy reading:

Moses said to the people…

“For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it

as the Lord our God, is to us

whenever we call upon God?”

Reflection:

Moses is reminding the Israelites that they had received gifts from God – freedom from slavery, daily nourishment and protection along their escape route. God did these wonderful deeds because of God’s love for the Israelites, not because they deserved it, but because God wanted to do good things for them – as God wants to do for us.

So, we ask ourselves:

  • Can I remember a time when I was in a personal desert and experienced God’s strong and loving presence?
  • For whom can I be that strong and loving presence now?

 

Prayer of the Faithful

 

Leader:          Let us bring our prayers to the God who made us in God’s own image.

 

 

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis: (pause) that he may be a faithful servant to lead us in giving ourselves to the Lord.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for the leaders of South Africa:  (pause) that they may act in love and for the common good of all people.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for all who hand on the faith, particularly preachers, teachers, and parents: (pause) that they may share the faith clearly and convincingly, and lead others into an experience of God’s great love.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for wisdom: (pause) that God will teach us how to live the virtues of the Christian life and manifest them in new ways in our contemporary society.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for peace: (pause) that the Spirit will renew the dedication of those working for peace and help all to work together to defeat the common enemies of disease, ignorance, and poverty.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for relief from the Covid pandemic: (pause) that God will renew the strength of all healthcare workers, keep them safe from the virus, and that the rollout of vaccines may swiftly reach all our people.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for Elaine Turner and Tom Gorton who died during the week.  Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

 

And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.  Amen.

 

Leader:          Let us pray for Healing and Wisdom:

 

Jesus, Son of God,

you were sent by the Father to bear our weakness;
be with us in this time of the covid pandemic.

Merciful Saviour, heal and comfort the sick,

so that, with health restored,

they may give you praise.
Divine Physician,

accompany our caregivers so that,

serving with patience,

they may heal wisely.

Eternal Wisdom,

we pray for the conversion of people who spread misinformation and lies.

Christ, the Anointed, help us to understand that being vaccinated is an act of love to protect all who are vulnerable.

Lord Jesus, you live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

 

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

 

 

 

CONCLUDING RITE

 

Leader:          Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

 

All say:          Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:          Father of light,
giver of every good and perfect gift,
bring to fruition the word of truth
sown in our hearts by your Son,
that we may rightly understand your commandments,
live your law of love,
and so offer you worship that is pure and undefiled.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

All:                  Amen.

 

Leader:          May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 

All:                  Amen.

 

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