Obey God’s Commandment With A Pure Heart
Readings: 1st: Deut 4, 1-8; Ps 14; 2nd: Jam 1, 17-18. 22-27; Gos: Mk 7, 1-8, 21-23
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working with the Spiritan International Group of Puerto Rico & Dominican Republic. He is the Administrator of Parroquia La Resurrección del Senor, Canovanas and the Chancellor of the Dioceses of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today, the twenty second Sunday of ordinary time, we rejoice in the Law of God which is pure religion. This Law is fulfilled in the Sacrament of love and dwells only in a pure and transformed heart. Hence, today’s readings lead us to reflect on the best way to obey it for the sake of our own salvation.
In our first reading, Moses reminded his people of the commandment of God and urged them to be steadfast to it in order to be successful in life. Importantly, he warned them not add or remove from it. However, this warning was not taken seriously, because the Pharisees multiplied the ten commandments to about six hundred and thirteen legal codes.
Through this, they made life practically and extremely difficult for the people of God. This was why later in Galatians 3, Paul had to make much case “against the law.” He did not completely condemn the Law, but the way his fellow Pharisees conceived, abused and presented it. He argued that the spirit of the Law was more important than its letters.
So, in today’s gospel, Jesus confronted the Pharisees because of their hypocrisy. They never observed the law that they multiplied for their people. This is a dangerous way of life that we (especially, priest and religious, the modern-day Pharisees), must be careful of. We must not live a hypocritical life, or even make life difficult for others.
Furthermore, by saying that: “What comes out of a man is what defiles him,” Christ calls us to self-evaluation. The malicious intentions, the hatred, pride, the corrupt tendencies we harbor in our heart are really what define and make us who we are. They are the vices that make us bad. We must evict them before they rock our spiritual boat. They are the real and hidden enemies that we must fight and defeat daily.
The quality of our life is measured by the quality of our heart and mind. If our mind and heart are infested and sick, our body would be sick a thousand time more, even without one knowing it. So, the most important thing that God needs from us is a pure heart as Christ taught us: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5, 8).
The best way to be faithful to God’s command is to allow our hearts to be transformed by it. So, rather than pay excessive attention to the letters of the law and physical purity, we must heed Paul’s advice: “Let your hearts be inwardly transformed, so that you will know the will of God.” (Rom 12, 2). God’s will is his law. It must motivate us to love others, and to avoid evil. It must evoke true repentance and a sincere will to forgive others. It must keep us firm in faith. Above all, it must move us pursue only what is good, just, noble and holy.
Today, the apostle James admonishes us in our second reading: Accept and submit to the word [God’s command] which has been planted in you…you must do what the word tells you.” Of course, the best way to do this is to let our Christianity find expressions in the way we live, love and treat one another.
Finally, the psalmist reminds us that the just shall live in the presence of God. This means, living his word and command with a pure and sincere heart. So, let us humbly pray like David: “Create a pure heart in me O Lord and, put a new and loyal spirit in me” (Ps 51, 10).
Peace be with you!