22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23
God made known His infinite love for his chosen people when he inscribed the commandments on the tablets of their hearts. Those who conform their lives to these ten words of life proclaim the grandeur of God. Hearing the words that come from the mouth of God, the believer finds the way to live and move and have his being. One who obeys the commandments shows that he is the recipient of God’s gift of grace. Those who live by faith need to keep close watch over their hearts, lest they forget the faithfulness of God.
One who does justice, lives in the presence of the Lord and runs along the path of his commandments is following in the footsteps of our divine master. He is the Way, and He calls us to follow Him. He walks in the Light of Truth and does the will of the One Who Sent Him. In order to know His will, we must live in communion with Him and ponder His Word in our heart. The disciple is just before God and man. The disciple speaks the truth from his heart. And in his heart, he holds sweet converse with the God who made him. The servant of the Lord, who truly loves God finds joy in all that gives glory to God and conversely, grieves over and makes reparation for all the times the divine majesty is offended.
That which the sun is in nature, God is in grace, providence, and glory. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” Jam 1:17). As every good gift is from God, so too our being born again come from him. Christ came into the world to give each and every one of us a pure heart. God, in his infinite love and mercy empowers us to fulfill the exhortation of the prophet Amos: “Let justice roll down as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Am. 5:24).
Through Baptism, we have been grafted into the Body of Christ. The apostle to the gentiles wrote: “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Sad to say, but true, some of the members have wandered from the wellsprings of justice and righteousness. As proof of this, every day, it seems, we are inundated with reports of men and women of God using and abusing defenseless children and vulnerable adults; or of bishops covering up these shameful and detestable acts.
Sin, anger, rage and distrust have driven a wedge between God and the people he loves. Not only have many people stopped believing in God, but they also stopped trusting one another and distanced themselves from the communion of the Church. God so loved the world that he came in search of the lost and called them to come out of their hiding place and once again stand before His loving gaze. God so loved the world that he sent his Only Son to seek out and draw those who have been the victims of abuse and betrayal nearer the Father’s heart. The Lord Jesus humbled himself to search us out so that we might humble ourselves and be reconciled to Him. Knowing the depths of God’s heart, let us weep and make reparation for the wounds or abuse and betrayal that have been inflicted upon the Body of Christ, the Church.
We must not be afraid to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities that have been committed by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of shepherding and caring for those who are most vulnerable. My brothers and sisters, we are being challenged to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters who have been wounded in their bodies and in their spirits. In these days of darkness and pain, we need to beg Our Lord to draw near to us and help us to draw near to Him. We are assured by the Lord, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). Let us not be afraid to uncover the truth of the scourge that has been laid upon the Church by clergy abuse and the betrayal of trust by the bishops. Let us stop denying or excusing the wrongs that have been committed. Let us pray for the healing of the Body of Christ and beg the Lord for forgiveness. Not only does the love of Christ remedy the guilt and shame of our sin, it also shows us the path that will remedy the anger and resentment that separate us one from another. The sinless Son bore the penalty of our sins and sought to reconcile sinners to the Father. Those willing to receive God’s gift of forgiveness will come to know the joy of living close to the heart of God.
Living close to the heart of God, we will be able to open our eyes and our hearts to the pain and suffering of other people, and support them as they attempt to rebuild their lives. The heart is place where God gives insight and burning desire for loving all that He loves. Being transformed by the compassion of God, we will learn to walk in the truth and commit ourselves to combat all forms of abuse, be it of power, or sexual abuse or abuse of conscience. Moved by the Spirit we will be able to express our sorrow in the face of these crimes of abuse and to resolve to firmly, courageously and vigilantly combat them in the future.
The remedy for crime is punishment, the remedy for a heart wounded by abuse and betrayal is repentance, reparation and forgiveness. As the Church, we need to ask God to probe our hearts and help us to see what he sees. Supported by the guidance of the Spirit, we can acknowledge and condemn, the hypocrisy of men who claim to preach the gospel but who, actually, disregard it in their own personal lives. In this time of darkness, let us, each one of us, beg forgiveness for our own sins and for the sins of others, for the sins of commission as well as those of omission. Let us commit ourselves, one and all, to working for the reform and rebuilding of the Church. As members of the Church, we are recipients of God’s mercy and have been called to be channels of comfort, healing and love.
“Heavenly Father, you have examined our hearts and you know everything about us” (CF. Ps.139:1). Help us to serve you with humility, generosity and peace. Send forth the Holy Spirit as we seek to rebuild your Church and heal the hurts of the past. Open the eyes of our hearts so that we may find our way back to you as brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters in the Beloved Son. Amen.