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FINDING GOD IN THE COMMONPLACE

Father Francis's picture
Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30 & Mk. 7:1-13

King Solomon's temple was said to be one of the wonders of the ancient world. This was not because of the wealth of materials and craftsmanship that went into the making of it but was a reflection of God's indwelling presence in that human place. That's the wonder that Solomon celebrated in his prayer of dedication, “The heavens cannot contain You. How much less this house that I have built!”

That is the mystery of biblical faith. For other ancient religions, the gods were distant and inaccessible. They lived on high mountains or in celestial spheres completely beyond human reach. But the God of the Bible lives among us.

Many people have a feeling that God lives in the church. We speak of going to church in order 'to be with God' but, as sacred as churches and cathedrals are, they are not literally the houses of God. For He can be found and experienced anywhere.

He is present in the beauty of a sunset or the darkness of a storm. He is present in the laughter of a child or the hug of a friend. He is present in the wrestle of the mind with truth and the struggle of the heart against temptation. God can be found anyway and everywhere - in the commonplace as well as the unusual.

The Jews went to great pains to ensure that their worship would conform to the instructions which God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. God's call to His people was a call to holiness, "Be holy, for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2). In their zeal for holiness many elders developed elaborate traditions which became a burden for the people in their everyday lives.

The Scribes and Pharisees were upset with Jesus because He allowed His disciples to break with their ritual traditions by eating with unclean hands. They sent a delegation all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to bring their accusation in a face-to-face confrontation. Jesus dealt with their accusation by going to the very heart of the matter – by looking at God's intention and purpose for the commandments.

Jesus gave an example of how their use of ritual tradition excused them from fulfilling the commandment to honour one's father and mother. If someone wanted to avoid the duty of financially providing for their parents in old age or sickness, they could say that their money or goods were an offering 'given over to God' and, thus, exempt themselves from any claim of charity or duty. They broke God's law to fulfil a law of their own making! Jesus explained that they were making God's command void because they allowed their hearts and minds to be clouded by their own notions of religion.

Jesus accused them specifically of two failings. The first was hypocrisy. Like actors who put on a show, they appeared to obey God's word in their external practices while they inwardly harboured evil desires and intentions. Secondly, He accused them of abandoning God's word by substituting their own arguments and ingenious interpretations for what God requires. They listened to clever arguments rather than to God's word. Jesus refers them to the prophecy of Isaiah (29:31) in which the prophet accuses the people of his day of honouring God with their lips while their hearts went astray because of disobedience to God's laws.

If we listen to God's word with faith and reverence, it will both enlighten our minds and purify our hearts - thus enabling us to understand better how He wants us to love and obey Him. The Lord invites us to draw near to Him and to feast at His banquet. Do we approach with a clean heart and mind?

Lord Jesus, let the purifying fire of Your Holy Spirit cleanse our minds and our hearts that we may love You purely and serve You worthily.

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