[22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, Aug. 30, 2015 / Deut 4:1-2, 6-8 Ps 15:2-3a, 3b-4a, 4b-5 / Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27 / Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23]
“DOERS of the Word” is an excellent book of Moral Theology written by a Redemptorist professor called Fr. Terence Kennedy. It is taken from the letter of James, where it is written “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.”
We are reminded to be not only listeners of the Word but doers also. Those who listen to the Word but who also put that Word into practice. Blessed is the one who listens to the Word of God and puts it into practice. This is how to give ourselves a solid foundation in our Christian life. So stop and think. If someone were to ask you which Word of God you were putting into practice this day, what would you respond?
Last week I went to a retreat preached by our sisters. One reading given was Ephesians 6:13 – “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” At times we need to stand firm. And sure enough there were, as always in our following of Christ, some challenging moments, some moments when Jesus asks us to trust in him and to stand firm! One particular moment was to stand firm over a decision that was made. There were two activities to attend, both of them good. I chose one, after dialogue with my community and thus could not attend the other. Stand firm in that decision. In another moment I was asked to attend a funeral mass and give the homily, to stand firm and to share the Good News.
In the Gospel Jesus invites the listener to be very concrete. Not to get lost in unimportant things but to focus on the essentials. The Pharisees were focused only on keeping many traditions. Perhaps they lost sight of what is essential. What is it that is essential? Blaise Pascal once commented that, “what is essential is invisible.” What is essential is what Jesus tells us. It may be that our practices are empty. Like the man who was in the church choir but led a very promiscuous life. He was singing nice songs with his lips but the message of his life was rather different – “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
What is essential is to listen to the Lord and do what he asks. If he asks us to stand firm then it is to stand firm. All else is secondary. That is why it is vital to listen to the Word. How can we be doers of the Word if we don’t know what it is that Jesus is asking us to do? Like those who were doing many things, good things, holy things: “Lord, we drove out demons in your name, we preached, we did miracles.” But how did our Lord reply? “Get away from me, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22-23). What is needed is to really listen well, to spend time to discern the will of God.
Mother Julian of Norwich reassured all with her motto “All will be well.” All will be well if we listen to the words of the Lord and then do them. Sometimes it is difficult to propose this Christian way to others, especially in our modern times. Why? “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.” But as St Paul (2 Timothy 4:5) reminds Timothy (and each one of us!) “But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfil your ministry.” Let us carry on fighting the good fight with courage, standing firm always knowing that our God is close to us and all will be well if we listen to his words and put them into practice. Be doers of the Word. Just do it! Amen.