29 August, Sunday – Observing our Hearts in the Face of Tradition

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dt 4:1-2,6-8
Jas 1:17-18,21-22,27
Mk 7:1-8,14-15,21-23

Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out from a man that make him unclean.

The core message of today’s readings permeates through each of the passages; flowing from the observance of the commandments in the first reading, doing justice in the responsorial psalms, being “doers of the word” in the second reading and finally culminating with Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees’ accusations on not keeping with traditions in the gospel. This core message focuses on not making God’s words null and void in the face of tradition. The laws in the Old Testament required external cleanliness not for its own sake, but to signify with what carefulness God’s servants should purify their minds from moral pollutions. Perhaps with the passage of time, these observances came to be multiplied prodigiously — humans’ zealousness resulted in many commandments being added as fences to the former. This was also emphasized in the first reading, where Moses explicitly stated that “In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.” Unfortunately, in our quest to be pious, we might have neglected the observance of our hearts when we are fixated with adhering to external laws.

At first glance, we might be quick to criticize the Pharisees’ actions. However, the disciples of Jesus, who are his closest friends and followers, have exhibited similar traits as well. One example is the story of the woman who comes with an alabaster flask and anoints the feet of Jesus at Bethany, but ended up being reproached by the disciples, for they failed to understand his true Messianic identity and mission. Hence, one can only guard their hearts from being defiled through embracing Jesus from within.

Recalling a homily from one of the priests a few years ago, he remarked that the mass climaxed at the end of it, where the dismissal occurs. It involves the sending forth and missioning of all who have celebrated the Eucharist and to commission them to bring the gospel of Christ to all peoples. Often, I wonder how many of us actually realise the importance of the dismissal; especially when our minds are preoccupied with secular events planned after church. To many, the dismissal could be a form of liberation from the tradition of attending mass; quarrels break out at carparks and horns sounded from a desire to leave the church compounds expeditiously right after mass. On one end, the lack of patience from the urgency to leave the church as soon as possible; on the other, a lack of consideration for others for those who have their vehicles blocking the flow of traffic. Perhaps there are more reasons as to why the sabbath should be kept and not to have our Sunday schedules packed to the extent that any slight delay from a lengthy homily, or heavy carpark traffic, could trigger an outburst of emotions.

Hopefully, with a discerning heart, we can then respond appropriately in all situations — to avoid slander, to do justice without reproaching others and reach out kindly to those who have yet to have that personal encounter with Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Dylan Tan)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, draw us close to you, especially during emotionally challenging moments of anger and frustration. Give us the will and strength to forgive ourselves and others from the chains that bind us. May you shower your comfort upon us and give us the peace that transcends all understanding. Amen.     

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for setting us free from our burdens and being with us every single moment of our lives.    

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