August 29, 2021
Moses addresses the people shortly before they will enter the Promised Land, and he asks them to Listen Israel, hear this Israel...
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.
He asks them to remember the Covenant God had made with them. They are to follow what God has given them and to be faithful to His laws which will bring them to the Promised Land. As they follow them, they will be a witnesses to the pagans that will be living all around them in this land of Canaan, which they are about to enter.
These readings are also a wake up call for us.
We are reminded of our call at our Baptism.
God made a covenant with each of us.
Sometime we get confused as to what God is asking of us.
St. Mark tells us about the difficulties the Scribes and Pharisees had with Jesus.
For the Scribes and Pharisees it was important to carry out every detail of the law and all of the human traditions that had developed.
They would not relate to those who did not follow the law and they would not associate with them, as they were considered unclean.
They could not, or would not understand how any holy person, like themselves, could be among those whom they considered sinners, like the tax collectors, the prostitutes, etc.
The part of the letter of St. James, (apostle, cousin of Jesus, bishop of Jerusalem), that we hear at Mass today gives us a hint at what we are to do as called by God and promised eternal life.
The orphans and the widows were the ones on the streets with nothing
They were the poor of the poor
This part of the letter states clearly what we are to do; what we are to pray for, for ourselves.
To love God above all and to love the neighbor
Now is a good time to look at ourselves.
What things do we put before our love for God;
could those things be...
...our private time,
...our wanting things to go our way,
...our unwillingness to forgive, or to have compassion?
The Lord will help us to see if we love our neighbor in the week ahead. The neighbor is any person God allows in our life, even the person who is difficult or the person who we, like those the Scribes and Pharisees ,think unclean. or below us.
I know that as I prepared these remarks on these scriptures, I had to look back and remember the times this week that I did not go out of my way for the people God allowed in my life, and at the times I thought I was right.
But God has given me the gift of conversion; to see that I have not put God above all and I did not go out of my way for my neighbor. Seeing the past events and my failure this week was a real gift from God.
Or as St. James said...
It is so easy to justify ourselves, as did the Scribes and Pharisees.
But to see ourselves, as we truly are at times, is a perfect gift from God.
Wait for that gift.
It is the moment in which we too can experience God's great mercy, compassion, forgiveness and love for us as sinner.