August 29: Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time. Readings: 1. Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8; Psalm: 15; 2. James 1:17-18,21-22,27; Gospel: Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23.
The tenor of these biblical texts is similar to that of the readings of last week. The authors are different, but their focus is on the way in which we conduct ourselves in our everyday lives.
In Deuteronomy, the repeated vocabulary is oriented towards a proper appreciation of the human-divine relationship. The biblical author is rightly concerned to impress upon us that all statutes, ordinances and commandments are a guide. They help us lead the kind of life that has been lovingly decreed for us while we honour the Lord as our God. Interestingly, the lectionary text concludes by noting that the divine instructions are to be carried out today. In our reception of what the Lord has to say to us, the present moment is, therefore, vitally important.
For James, acknowledging God’s presence in our lives is a must. The divine Word we hear is spoken to help us live grounded in sound conduct and proper concern for the good of our brothers and sisters. As James expresses it, we are called not only to pay attention to God’s Word, but also to act upon it. This kind of instruction clearly intends to ensure we remain dedicated to the holy life willed by God the Father.
Central to the passage from Mark’s Gospel is the call to align ourselves with the teaching of Jesus. This call comes in the wake of the controversy sparked by the Pharisees and Scribes. They have failed to recognise the deeper significance of Jesus’ bonds with his disciples. Therefore, the heart is given extra-special importance. For it is out of someone’s deep experience of the divine that due observance of God’s commandments and right behaviour flow.
Clearly, today’s readings present the standard by which we are to measure our daily lives. Knowing our religious duties, we consciously choose which direction our lives take.