Does this shock you? Wk 2 Serve

Does this shock you? Wk 2 Serve

Does this shock you? Serve (Week 2)
29 August 2021
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

This is the second week of our new homily series called:
Does this shock you?

Jesus says and does some shocking things in Scripture that can take us by surprise.  It may even make us rethink who Jesus is and how we relate to him.  With some of the things Jesus says you may hear people quip, “I didn’t think Jesus would say something like that!”

In our Gospel today, Jesus takes the religious leaders, specifically the Pharisees, by surprise.  In this passage Jesus references the book of Isaiah (29:13) when he says:
“This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.”

What did he say? This would have really knocked the Pharisees over.  What is Jesus referring to?

The Pharisees and other religious leaders of the day had added on to the Law of Moses, even though Moses himself told them not to.  So they were telling the people for years that you have to live the Law of Moses plus, whatever the law or teaching they were adding to it.  It wasn’t just an inference from the law but an addition to the law. 

Jesus is not angry with the Pharisees because they are overly scrupulous about obeying God’s law.  He is upset with them because they have disregarded God’s law for their own additions of human tradition.

The laws that they added, even though Moses said not to, would have been at the least benign and most likely helpful if the Pharisees had not become fixated on the keeping of these laws above all else, specifically to the neglect of mercy and faith.  Outward regulations are much easier to keep than inward purity of mind and heart, so that’s what the Pharisees focused on.

The point of the law was to teach the right ordering of the soul, whereas the Pharisees believed, it was materially what happens to the body that defiles the person.  In actuality it was the interior act of the soul (what comes out of the heart) that defiles.

The truth is our thoughts precedes our actions.  What we think is what we do.  That’s scary to think about.

This gospel verse caused me to look in the mirror and examine my heart and actions big time! If Jesus were to stand before us today, would He say, “Woe to you!”? Would He point out that we praise Him with our lips, but our hearts are far from Him? Do we go to Sunday or daily Mass but fail to see the mystery of the ordinary becoming extraordinary? Do we live our lives and use the resources we are given for our glory or for God’s?

To take it a step further, as the Gospels have been calling us to do this week, do we look at the outward appearance more than we look at the posture of the heart of the people God places in our care daily? Are we aware of the words that form in our hearts and mind and come out of our mouths as we speak to those we come in contact with especially our family and friends? Just think about the conversations we hear and participate in at the office or with our friends. Would Jesus participate in those conversations, or would He walk away, or would He have a “Pharisee moment” with us where he calls us out for our behavior?

This Gospel is calling all of us out in one way or another. Whether it’s one of the things listed by Jesus in the Gospel or something else that is coming from within our hearts, Christ is forcing us to change our heart and mind before our words and actions.

It is with this same conscientiousness that we should examine ourselves from the inside out to reconcile with God, because he is calling us to serve.

Life-giving behavior begins with control of the interior life, with the regulation of one’s thoughts and feelings.  Not to serve begrudgingly; or out of guilt; but with pure motives from a heart full of love for him.  How we serve says a lot about our heart.  When we don’t serve, that says something about us as well.  Our service though is not as much about the outward action as it is about our interior motive.  

To find the reason to be motivated to serve God we should watch out for the things that shouldn’t be our motivation.  Things like: feeling guilty for not praying enough or not giving enough; or just because you were raised Catholic or going to church; or for your own goals because you are in trouble or you need something from God.

What should motivate us to serve our God and parish community? Well, there is really one thing that should: love.  Love is why we care for our spouse and our kids or family; love is why we do things we don’t want to do sometimes like go to work or clean the dog poop up off of the floor so someone else doesn’t have to or empty the garbage can in the kitchen when it is overflowing.  Love can bring us joy in those things that we might not normally want to do or think to do.  Without love, we lose the whole purpose for service.  Scripture tells us God is love, which means, we love better when we know God better.

We spend good portions of our life to find purpose.  Here’s the catch: you don’t need to find purpose in life. You already have purpose.  You don’t have to do things to earn God’s love or favor.  You can’t.  God loves you already, and because of that you are very valuable to Him and His mission.  Because we are loved by Him and in relationship to Him, we have purpose.  If we don’t serve God in some capacity, what does that say about our heart?

How are you serving our parish community?

If you are serving, thank you for what you do.  If you aren’t, then take a ministry card which lists the most immediate needs of our parish community, and take a few moments now to prayerfully consider being a part of a ministry.  When you are finished filling it out, put it in the offertory basket as it passes by today.  You can also sign up online, right now if you like, by going to www.saintmary.life/serve.  We will take a few minutes now to do that.