11Feb 11 February, 2020. Tuesday of Week 5

Our Lady of Lourdes (Opt. Memorial); St Gobnait, virgin (Opt. Memorial)

1st Reading: 1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30

The temple dedication ends with Solomon’s noble prayer

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands to heaven. He said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart.

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive.

Responsorial: Psalm 84

Response: How lovely is your dwelling-place, Lord, God of hosts

My soul is longing and yearning,
is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my soul ring out their joy
to God, the living God.

The sparrow herself finds a home
and the swallow a nest for her brood;
she lays her young by your altars,
Lord of hosts, my king and my God.

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
for ever singing your praise.
Turn your eyes, O God, our shield,
look on the face of your anointed.

One day within your courts
is better than a thousand elsewhere.
The threshold of the house of God
I prefer to the dwellings of the wicked.

Gospel: Mark 7:1-13

Mere repetition of rituals can nullify our moral sense

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘honour your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God) — then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”


May your words, O Lord be on my lips and in my heart. May they guide me on life’s journey and keep me near to you.

Gospel priorities

What a travesty it would be, to prioritise arbitrary human traditions over the clearly expressed will of God. Many traditional rituals of Jesus’ time had lost touch with the core virtues taught by Moses and the prophets.

We need to reexamine our legal and social traditions to better reflect what are considered genuine values today. In every generation people need to review their attitudes in the light of our current cultural context. We Catholics try to do so with the help of the Holy Spirit, so as to see what the spirit of the gospel asks of us today. Almost sixty years ago the second Vatican Council valiantly attempted to do just that; and bishops were invited to discuss creative ways of renewing the practices and liturgy of the church. In our personal lives we sometimes cling to traditional ways of doing things that are not really in the spirit of Jesus Christ. Norms of behaviour are always in need of reform in the light of the gospel. We need to listen afresh to Christ’s Word and trust in his Spirit to show us the way.

The central truth is that whatever God has made is very good. Through this lens we can examine today’s texts, about Solomon and about Jesus. In his new-built temple Solomon ponders, “Can it be that God dwells among us on earth? If the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built?” Ten centuries later, Jesus opposed the harsh legalists who set aside God’s commandment [that love is the primary virtue] and insisted on the observance of minutiae.

Solomon knew that God’s presence fills the total universe and therefore that no human sanctuary, however splendid, can really contain the divinity. (For Catholics, by the way, those words of Solomon should defuse any sentimental notion of “the Prisoner in the Tabernacle.”) In turn, Jesus declares that all the products of the world are clean because they have been created by God. And if he cleared out the buyers and sellers, it was because he accepted that the Jerusalem temple was the House of God.

We build churches for sharing worship for the same reason that we build homes for families. A home is needed , at least for the majority of humankind, to shelter from the elements, to sleep and as the place where the family can live together. In church, we have a place for prayer and for being a community of faith. Its a place where we encounter the Scriptures, the sacraments and the memory of saints.

To wash ourselves before eating is good hygiene, of course, where water is available. But if conventions lead to a holier-than-thou atmosphere, they can block us from forming one large human family under God. The Word of God cuts through the artificial barriers we raise. When we are content to share this world with our fellow men and women, then we are ready for heaven, “the highest heavens,” home for all God’s children. Authentic rituals should not divide people but promote inclusiveness and the ongoing need for conversion.

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