One. Two. Three.
29 August 2021, 22nd Sunday in the Ordinary Time
Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
One. Two. Three.
One. There is one strand that connects our three readings of today’s liturgy: holiness. What is holiness? Many of us understand as something legislated, as something external and as something performative. When one follows the demands on how to be holy by doing these and those, there is that feeling of satisfaction. Wow! I made it! Wow! I did it! Wow! I am praised! If holiness is understood and lived to give satisfaction to our ego, ooops! Beware. Why? This leads us to two points.
Two. The readings tell us that holiness is not our own initiative. It is never our own making. We are not the protagonists of holiness. If we desire to be holy, it is because (1) God desires that we all become like Him and (2) God concretizes this holy desire by giving us His Word/the Commandments/the Law. In other words, the Commandments strengthen and help us realize our identity as being covenanted with God. By these two, we can say that holiness is God’s gift to us. God desires us to be holy. God is the protagonist of holiness. What are we supposed to do with God’s gift, desire and work in our lives?
Three. We have to ACT. In the 2nd Reading, St James proclaims that as having been called to live God’s life, let us be “doers of the Word” (Jas 1:22). How can we become doers of the Word/Commandments/Law?
A. We humbly ACCEPT God’s Word. Sometimes, we want to acknowledge that all good things that we do come from us. I did that. I sponsored that. I donated those. Without me, these projects will not come into existence. If our purpose why we do good is to feel good, this is spiritual arrogance. And This is worse than COVID 19 virus! Take God’s Word. God is never a stranger in our life. God’s Word is planted in our lives as values, as virtues, as gifts and as capacities. The desire to be holy is in fact a clear manifestation that God never leaves us even if we are struggling to live holy lives. And so, accept God’s Word and be the best version that God will us to be. Holiness is a soul work.
C. After accepting God’s Word, we CHANGE. In the Gospel, the Pharisees and some scribes complained to Jesus why His disciples are not religious in following ritual practices for cleansing and purification. Brothers and sisters, real change is not “outside-in” but “inside-out”. Real devotion to God’s Word is not just by mere fulfilment of precepts but there is a transformation that is taking place from within. Formation is not just to equip us with knowledge and skills. Formation is really happening if there is transformation taking place from the mind and the heart, then, expressed by our actions. Holiness is not pakitang tao and pakitang gilas to gain pogi points. Holiness is concretely putting into practice the Gospel values and virtues. Even if no one sees us and applauds us that we faithful and true, loving and just, God sees us. No one can ever escape God’s vision when we live a life in imitation of Christ.
T. Be THANKFUL. We thank God for giving us His Word. But gratitude never stops there. Real sense of gratitude is evident when we take part in the life and mission of God through Christ in the Church. In being “doers of the Word”, gratitude is the attitude by being the hands of the powerless, the voice of those who are voiceless, by reaching out to the orphans and the widows, the poor and the underprivileged, and those who are displaced by war and violence. In other words, being thankful to God is best expressed by reaching out to the last, the least and the lost.
When will this COVID 19 pandemic end? We do not know. We are living in moments when we are uncertain. But today’s liturgy tells us that even if we are overwhelmed by this crisis, the call to be holy remains relevant and significant. Since the call to holiness is for all, we respond it with small and practical steps. We ACT! We accept with humility God’s Word. We change for the better inside out. We express gratitude as an attitude of love and service.
Let me end with the words of St Francis de Sales: “The loving heart will aspire to great things, but God will be pleased with smaller accomplishments as well. Little things add up.” Holiness is not a competition but a life of communion and mission. Amen!
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