Tuesday of Week 5 in Ordinary Time
“How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition!”
During this season of Chinese New Year, I am usually reminded (by my parents at least) of all the traditions that come with the festivities. For instance, having reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve, or coming up with auspicious phrases to greet my parents in the morning (as well as the relatives that we visit), etc. Indeed, the list can go on.
Most years, I often find myself annoyed by this tirade of traditions and reminders. Part of it comes from the strong focus on material prosperity (indeed, almost all the auspicious phrases that are used to greet relatives have something to do with increasing one’s material wealth), but most of it has to do with the dogmatic way in which these traditions are passed down to us.
However, a few years ago, it took on a different meaning as I celebrated Chinese New Year overseas. Even as I shuddered at the memories of Chinese New Years past and vowed not to make a big deal of it, I found myself yearning for some semblance of the festival in my then newly-formed family of two. Indeed, when one focuses on the family, rather than the strict observance of traditions, these traditions begin to make some sense.
Perhaps this is the difference that Jesus is alluding to in today’s readings. When traditions are passed down and adhered to without understanding or respecting the deeper reality that they allude to, they become a hindrance to our relationship with God. This can apply to any type of tradition, even saying grace at the dinner table. While having dinner with a couple of friends a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that many of my American friends (in my community at least) tend to say a pre-set prayer for grace.
In order to ensure that our traditions (both cultural and religious) retain their purposes (both practical and spiritual), there is a need to retain a strong focus on God. Yes, even when that annoying Chinese New Year jingle appears on the radio, perhaps we should think about the wonderful memories of time spent with our families and loves ones, all of whom are gifts and blessings from God, before switching the channel.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: We pray for eyes of faith, so that we may see our ever-loving God in our cultures and traditions.
Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His providence, for He has given us families and communities to accompany us on our earthly pilgrimage.
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