2021-08-2922nd Sunday in Ordinary TimeRev. Msgr. Michael J. Motta, D.Min.

The first thing that we can say about today`s Gospel from St. Mark is that it is not referring to hygiene. The Pharisees are critical of Jesus` disciples because they do not wash their hands before eating. A little soap and water before eating is always a good idea.

What is being talked about by the Pharisees is a religious ritual or law that should be followed by all devout Jews. The disciples of Jesus are not following the laws of what they feel is true religion.

But Jesus counters by saying "true religion is more than just keeping the commandments." Keeping the commandments establishes the minimum standard of good behavior. True religion is more about love and faith. Law tells you what you must do. Love says what you should do.

Our second reading is usually taken from the letters of St. Paul. St. Paul was a Pharisee who became a disciple of Jesus Christ. In his letters, he will often emphasize the fact that salvation comes from the faith alone in Jesus Christ. Salvation does not come from observing the laws or doing good deeds. You cannot earn heaven. Going to heaven is a "pure gift" from God. Our Protestant friends will often quote St. Paul. They do not like the letters of St. James. At least Martin Luther did not because St. James will often write that you can have faith in God but if you do not help your neighbors who are less fortunate, you are not a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Catholics often quote St. James. His ideas are often used when we talk about Catholic moral teaching. We will be using the letters of St. James in the next few weeks.

Conservative or traditional religious people will usually emphasize piety or prayer as the foundation of religion. More liberal people will usually promote a "Gospel of action" based on the corporal works of mercy. Which group is correct? Which group best represents religion?

A favorite author of mine, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser says that the liberals need to pray more for the neighbors and the conservatives need to care more about their neighbors.

A true blending of both philosophies gives us authentic religion based upon the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Back to Homilies page