August 30, 2015
Moses, Deut. 4:1-8, was giving a very important message to the people. His exhortation was necessary to lead the people in the right direction in the changing life situation. Not merely an advice but the law that is to be observed diligently. This is also a warning against the impending dangers that can happen. The situation was the people approaching the Promised Land. Moses begins his speech by reviewing the history of Israel. He then exhorts the people to cherish the law that God has given, for it is precious and good, guiding its followers and instilling wisdom within them. Therefore, the law was a safeguard to keep them devoted to the one true God, Yahweh.
In the gospel, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23, Jesus emphasizes this point of giving importance to God’s law rather than human traditions. Traditions and customs of the society are good, but they are not absolute. Sometimes they can be counter productive if not applied in the spirit of God’s law. The Pharisees were very particular in observing the law concerning ritual purification which was prescribed for priests to observe. But they imposed it on everybody and expected everyone to follow it, and that did not make much sense. Jesus rejects the emphasis on these human traditions. These traditions in itself were harmless. Then why were they to be rejected? Because in giving more importance to these unnecessary traditions they neglected the more important ones such as love, justice, and the observance of God’s law.
St. James, through his letter, 1:17-18, 21-22, 27, reminds us that all good gifts come from God, and they are to be used for the good of all. True worship requires taking care of those in need and avoiding the sinfulness of the world. Our worship can become empty if we do not live as God has called us to live. Hearing the word of God and not acting upon it can become an empty worship.
In conclusion, the message of today challenges us to give God wholehearted service, to avoid sin and to place God’s law clearly above our customs and desires.