August 29, 2021
by Molly Mattingly
Creighton University's Campus Ministry and St. John's Parish
click here for photo and information about the writer

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 125

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8
Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5
James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Praying Ordinary Time

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Today’s readings all touch on God’s law: why it is important, how it looks when someone practices it, and what is at its core. The first reading from Deuteronomy highlights the importance of God’s commands. Following them leads to life, to receiving and owning a gift from God. Observing God’s commands shows both wisdom and intelligence, and others see that wisdom as a sign that God is close to the people. God’s law here is a gift, a sign of care, because it leads to wisdom and flourishing.

Especially when we are young, rules and structure are important. They teach us how us ask for help (“please”) and offer gratitude (“thank you”). They teach us how to treat each other (“share;” “don’t hit your brother”), contribute to our communities (“help your sister set the table”), and care for ourselves (“bedtime!” or “wash your hands”). The prayers we learn when we are young help us learn how to talk to God. Even as adults, a structure like the rhythm of ritual prayer can allow us to rest in it. God’s law to Moses is a sign of care because observing it will form the people in ways that will lead them to care for each other, for themselves, and for God. It’s important to note that as adults we often still need structures for our continued formation and growth! Following God’s law will continue to lead us to wisdom and flourishing.

The psalm and second reading describe how that wisdom and flourishing looks in the world: those who follow God’s law, who welcome the word of truth planted in them, act for justice. They care for the vulnerable and suffering. They do not harm each other or speak ill of each other. Following God and experiencing the love of God always leads outward into sharing that love with others. As we mature, we begin to understand that the fruits of God’s law are more important than the rules themselves.

However, being human, it’s easy to mistake the rules and structure for the goal. The goal is to grow closer to God; most of us need a discipline or practice to help us do that, both individually and communally. But we do not worship the discipline. We worship God. This is what Jesus taught when he saw the Pharisees’ reaction. He saw that their attachment to the rules did not bear the good fruit of justice and compassion, but rather became a way to put others down and build themselves up. In the end, God’s law is love, and leads to love.

Jesus, Be In Our Hearts (Bi Íosa im Chroíse)

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