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 Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico. He is the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canóvanas, and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. He was the chancellor of the Diocese of Fajardo Humacao, Puerto Rico. Fr. Canice is a member of the Academy of Homiletics. For more details and comments contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today, the twenty-second Sunday of ordinary time, we rejoice in God’s Law, 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 salvation.
In our first reading, Moses reminded his people of God’s commandment and urged them to be steadfast in order to be successful in life. Notably, he warned them not to add or remove from it. However, this warning was not heeded because the Pharisees multiplied the ten commandments to about six hundred and thirteen legal codes.
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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 many cases “against the law.” He did not wholly 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, and corrupt tendencies we harbor in our hearts are 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 times 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. His will must evoke true repentance and a sincere desire to forgive others and keep us firm in the faith. Above all, it must move us to pursue what is right, just, noble, and holy.
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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!