Their hearts are far from Me

Word Alive–Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD August 29, 2021 / 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

There’s a story about a Jewish rabbi (teacher) who was in prison. The rabbi used his small daily ration of water not for drinking, but for religious ritual of hand washing before eating. Because of his determination to obey the rules of ritual cleanliness, the poor rabbi almost died of dehydration!

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In the gospel of today, when the scribes and Pharisees (religious leaders) saw Jesus’ disciples eating food with hands that had not been ritually washed, they were shocked.

Their concern for external regulations overshadowed their concern for internal attitudes. This is why Christ rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for their unbending legalism and self-righteousness.

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As such, these religious practices are not bad. What Christ detested was the Pharisees’ attitude that such formal and merely external actions constituted a person’s religiosity. Worst, when such practices are used to show to the public how holy they were. Such acts were hypocritical or, in local parlance, “pakitang tao.”

Moreover, Jesus condemned those religious leaders for their meticulousness in observing the religious rituals but overlook and neglect the more important matters like justice and mercy.

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For instance, the religious authorities sell animal sacrifices like doves and sheep but would have to be purchased from the temple sellers appointed by the religious leaders, but the prices were exorbitant.

Seeing all this exploitation, Jesus quoting the prophet Isaiah said: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.”

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We may abhor what those Pharisees were doing, but we do behave life them, too. For instance, we consider ourselves as good, “practicing” Catholics when we fulfill our obligations of going to Sunday Mass, receiving communion and making our devotions.

These forms of piety are, by no means, bad in themselves. However, they could lead to mere externalism and a double-standard religiosity.

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To illustrate, there’s a wealthy lady who owns a lot of businesses. Religious statues and antique images adorn the walls so that that their mansion looks like a religious museum. The lady goes to Mass daily and receives Holy Communion. Her workers, however, cannot appreciate her piety because, with all her wealth, she doesn’t give the legal wage that’s due them. They grumble, saying: “Ang amo namin ay dasal ng dasal; masama naman ang asal” (Our manager is very prayerful but her practice is unjust).

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For some, it’s easier to go to Mass and be inspired by the angelic voices of the choir and priest’s homily than to love one’s enemy or people who’re hard to get along with. As a writer averred: “To live with saints above that’s the highest glory; but to live with the saints below, that is another story.”

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God requires a piety which involves not only our prayers and devotions but also our acts of mercy, justice, and moral uprightness. One without the other is incomplete and defective. That is why the Lord reserved the harshest criticism against the hypocritical Pharisees, likening them as “white sepulchers that look beautiful from outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones.”

May the Lord not say of us: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.”

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LAUGH WITH GOD. Parish priest meets a parishioner: “Romy, I’ve not seen you in church for a long time. What happened?

Romy replies: “Father, I’m turned off by so many hypocrites there.” Parish priest: “Romy, don’t worry. There’s still a place for one more.”

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Jew: “Did you know the Bible says bigamy is all right?” Christian: “No, the Bible is against bigamy.” Jew: “But don’t you recall all those Old Testament kings had lots of wives like Solomon?”

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Christian: “Yes. But then Jesus Christ came along and told us that from the beginning, marriage was monogamous, having only one wife.”

“And did you know the punishment for bigamy?” “Not only you will have two masters but two mothers-in-law!” (biyanan).

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FAMILY TV MASS–is aired on TV5 One Sport Channel 59, Free TV Ch. 41 at 6-7 a.m. every Sunday and anytime at “MCFI SVD Media” Account on YouTube and Facebook Page. Priest presider: FR. BEL SAN LUIS, SVD.

“The FAMILY that prays together stays together.”

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