Monday, September 3, 2012

Homily 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle "B" September 2, 2012

            First of all, I have a complaint, because we are all getting gypped.  Our First Reading today, from the 4th chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy has verses 1 & 2, skips verses 3, 4 & 5, and then concludes with verses 6 & 8.  So the whole middle is gone.  
            Our 2nd reading from the Letter of James starts with verse 17 & 18, skips verses 19, 20 and the first half of 21, includes 21b and 22, then skips verses 23 through 26, and tags on verse 27 at the end.  It’s a mish-mosh. 
            And our Gospel, from Mark chapter 7 includes verses 1 through 8, skips 9 though 13, includes 14&15, skips 16 through 20, and then ends with 21 to 23. Like Swiss cheese, it is full of holes.   
            Now maybe you like short readings, and would favor cutting out a bunch more verses, making for really efficient Scriptures on a holiday weekend.  But I am the kind of guy who likes to get my money’s worth.  I want to see the whole thing.  After all, I am from Missouri, the “show me” State.  So I encourage you, at home, to read the full passage and see what is really going on in today’s readings.  It is a good practice to read the Sunday readings before you come to Mass.  You can find them on the US Bishop’s website,, and also the full Bible passages as well, to see what you are being gypped out of.  Enough! 

            In today’s Gospel the Pharisees observed that some of Jesus’ disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.  And the Pharisees got upset.  The Orthodox Bible puts it well: “they found fault”.  Didn’t their Parents train them to wash their hands before they ate?  Well, this was more than a concern for unsanitary manners and habits.  It was a concern for PURITY.  "On coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves."
            The argument the Pharisees have with Jesus is an argument over purity. 
            So let’s talk about purity.  Now when you hear the priest in church start talking about purity, what immediately comes to your mind? ......
For most American Catholics, it is SEX.  But that is not what this ancient argument was about.  Because, for the Jews this issue of purity was about FOOD.  That is what all the kosher dietary laws are about.  What foods are clean, and what foods are unclean.  But in any case, sex or food, purity is about basic, elemental things. 
            So, ¿Who wants to be pure?  Do you strive to live a pure life? .......? Do you want to be known as a “pure” person???   “Oh, that Fr Chuck, he’s so pure!”  
            We have a great deal of cultural ambivalence about the issue of purity.  But let’s take it out of the moral and religious arena for a minute. 
             Do you want purity in your food?  I do.  Just check out the organic food at Whole Foods or HEB.  No pesticides; it is pure!  It costs more, but people will pay it because it is pure.   
            How about purity in your drugs and medicines?  I think so.   Would you prefer your jewelry be pure gold, or just some gold with other stuff thrown in there? 
            Purity is often very valuable.  So, ..... Would you like your life to be pure?  That is, a life that is authentic and genuine; Unalloyed? Uncorrupted? Undefiled?           Sounds a lot like innocence.  And who, at one time or another, hasn’t yearned for innocence?
            Impurity is more than just sexual.  Impurity is also prejudices and racial hatreds.  Certainly dishonesty is a form of impurity.  So is cowardice, especially in the face of injustice.   In the second reading today St. James, ever practical and concrete, tells us:  “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
            For Jesus, purity and impurity are not matters of ritual, nor even of acts.  Rather purity and impurity are matters of the heart, of the things that come from within.  We hear the negative side of that in today’s Gospel: "From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.  All these evils come from within and they defile."
            In St. Matthew’s Gospel we hear the positive statement of this reality: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."  (Mt: 5:8)
            It was not the unwashed hands of the apostles that were really impure, but rather the hardness of the Pharisees’ hearts that was really impure.
            Jesus invites us to live His life, a life of total, pure, obedience to God, so that we too might be cleansed of impurity to live pure in heart. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Fr. Chuck. Just found your blog. We miss you at Old St. Mary's, but at least we can still get your great homilies.
    Have a great Labor Day.
    Joe Jerkins
    PS Saw a bobcat while running in the Marin Headlands the other day. Made me think of you and your "adventure" in William Coe Park - although mine was less dramatic.