22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Year B

Dt 4: 1 – 2;  Mk 7: 1 – 8, 14 – 15, 21 – 23

A few moments ago the lector having read form the Scriptures proclaimed to us, “This is the Word of God”, and we enthusiastically responded, “Thanks be to God”.

Do we really believe that our Scriptures are the Word of God?

Then why is it that some, possibly many of us, seldom read and reflect on the Word of God?  How l is it that we just do not see the Bible as essential to our spirituality?

Pope John Paul, in 2002 reminded us that, “Scripture is the first source of all Christian Spirituality.”  Each one of us is trying to live out our lives to the best of our ability.  We all want to be the best possible people we can.  We all want those around us, friends and family to achieve the same goal, and in doing this we will make the world a happier place for all.

John Paul gives us the recipe for making our world, happier, more peaceful, a better place for all.  He tells us that “Christ is truly present in his Word and in the Sacraments especially the Eucharist.  Recognising him requires a gaze of faith which is acquired through habitual reading of the Word of God.”

If we want to get to know and understand Jesus; if we want to build a relationship with Jesus; if we want to learn and take on the values and ideals of Jesus; then the place to start is our Scriptures.  Every Sunday the Church gives us three readings from the Old and New Testaments.  Why not use these readings for prayer and reflection throughout the week?  Devote a little times to this practice each day – say ten minutes.  Monday and Tuesday use the first reading. The second reading is for Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday and Saturday reflect on the Gospel.

To-day’s liturgy opened with Moses proclaiming to the people,

“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live.”  This reading comes from the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book in the Bible.  We need to page back to Exodus to find the original story.  There we learn how the Hebrew people having escaped from the slavery of Egypt and after a long trek arrived at Mount Sinai. It was there that they entered into a covenant with God.

“I will be your God and you will be my people.”

Sinai is usually associated with the people receiving the Ten Commandments.  Scholars tell us that the original Hebrew word we usually translate, commandments, can also be translated as commitments.  What a difference it would make to our spirituality if we regard them as the Ten Commitments we make to the Almighty.  Instead of ten laws imposed from above by a mighty, powerful God, we would see ourselves and God in a loving partnership – we accept these ten bits of sound advice and voluntarily commit ourselves to them.

Indeed, this is what actually happened.

Exodus 24 describes the ceremony celebrating the Covenant between the Hebrew people and God.  During the ceremony Moses reads out the ten commitments.

“Moses wrote down all the Words of the Lord”.   Then “Taking the book of the covenant, Moses read aloud to the people, who answered, ‘All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.”

Perhaps your response to this new insight is, “That is very interesting but I would never have figured that out for myself.”

I quite agree with you.  However the help, to grow in understanding the Word of God, is available.

James, in the second reading encourages us to follow this new approach to life.  “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.  Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” Once again we are called back to the basics of our faith.  Christ is truly present in his Word.  Christ is truly present in the Scriptures.  The Scriptures are truly the Word of God.

This may surprise you – but we have Pope John Paul’s word that it is true.  Surely we are being invited to pick up the Scriptures and make the reading of the Word part our daily spiritual lives.  Surely the Bible should be our first book of prayer.

The Second Vatican Council stated very clearly how the leadership of the Church see this.

“The Council, earnestly and specifically urges all the Christian faithful, to learn by frequent reading of the divine scriptures the ‘excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ”.  This is what our religious practice in all about.  The more we get to know and understand the Scriptures, the better we will know and understand Jesus – and then – we will follow in his footsteps.

How are we going to respond to this call?

The solution is easy.

  • Start reading a little scripture each day from the Sunday readings.
  • Go to the website of the Catholic Bible Foundation, www.catholicbible.org.za.  There you will find, every second week, a short explanation of the Gospel Reading.
  • Start to-day.

“Your Words are spirit Lord, and they are life; you have the message of eternal life.”

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