Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.
Today’s Theme: The Heart.
Deuteronomy is book 5 of the Pentateuch. It is the farewell letter of a dying prophet (Moses) to the nation he loved with all his heart, mind and soul (*there are 51 references to “heart” in the book). The book was written to the Israelites beyond the Jordan – when they were in the wilderness. Deuteronomy means “second law,” Moses “re-tells” the law because as you may recall, the Israelites broke it the first time (the Golden Calf incident is often referred to as “the Second Fall”).
Deuteronomy: 4: 1-2, 6-8
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)
Today Moses is the author, and he puts forth a 2nd law to the people. Telling them again – follow God’s law! Do as you are commanded. Do not veer from this law but take it into your homes and hearts.
What we have here is, in effect, “Part I” of God’s law – Part I lives in the Old Testament writings. What then is “Part II?” Part II of course is the New Covenant that is ushered in by Jesus. That New Covenant is activated the moment Jesus dies on the cross, the moment he has given his life – his body – for us as expiation for our sins. So think of Reading 1 as a precursor. God (through Moses) establishes the law. Jesus does not abolish it, but fulfills it.
Moses said to the people:
“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe,
that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin upon you,
you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.
Observe them carefully,
for thus will you give evidence
of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,
who will hear of all these statutes and say,
‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’
For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him?
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?”
Psalm 15:The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)
Note the mention of “heart” in the first verse. Aim this week to do justice for God in your daily life by aiming to be a follower of Him.
Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).
We have a special treat today, hearing from St. James. He was concerned largely with ethical conduct, and today we hear his point of view on living out the Word we read. Understanding – or working hard to understand – that the Word is ALIVE. That Christ actually IS the word of God, the scriptures, but just in the flesh. That is why this blog exists. To crack open The Word, to open the scriptures, so that we better understand Jesus, for He IS the Word. Today, we must be Doers. We must act as we believe.
All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.
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, deluding yourselves.
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.
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)
It’s important to know as you hear the Gospel that the Pharisees were hyper. They were hyper-careful and hyper-vigilant about keeping the laws of their forefathers. Imagine you had something valuable you didn’t want anyone to to take. A diamond ring for example. You put it in the lock box of a bank to keep it safe. Then you put that lock box into another safety-deposit box to keep the ring even safer. The ring is surrounded by 2 circles of safety – the lock box, and then the safety deposit box.
This is what the Pharisees did with God’s law that was handed down by Moses. They said, “We will not break God’s laws again! And to be sure of that, we will make even MORE laws (the outer-most ‘circle’ of safety) so that the mosaic laws (the inner-most ‘circle’ of safety). But that outer-most circle were laws the Pharisees concocted, not God. What eventually happened is that the Pharisees become so fixed on not breaking any laws that the lost what was at the heart of the matter – following God, and giving him quite literally, your heart.
We are called to generosity of heart. God wants our hearts entirely. Fully. Unabashedly. Today we are reminded not to get so caught up by all the rules that we forget the One who set them in place for us and the end goal of becoming His follower. We are called to follow Him throughout our lives and be led by His great hand to the promise land of Heaven.
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
—For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.
“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.”