Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gospel Reflection

February 12, 2013
Tuesday – Year of Faith – Weekday
by Rev. Fr. Eric Gelino, Society of Jesus
12:15PM Mass, Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace (Our Lady of EDSA)
Reading 1 Gn 1:20—2:4a

God said, “Let the water teem with abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.” And so it happened: God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying, “Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth.” Evening came, and morning followed–the fifth day.

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.” And so it happened: God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. God saw how good it was.

Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”

God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” God also said: “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.” And so it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed–the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth and their entire array were completed. Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation. Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (2ab) O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you set in place—
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!

Gospel Mk 7:1-13

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”  He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

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.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother, and whoever curses father or mother shall die. Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”


In our First Reading, we heard about the Creation story, of how God created all creatures and human beings. And He made them good. All creatures - all of us - were created to be good, and we were also created for goodness. Our basic reality is to be good. We're not bad people; we're called to be good.  

And this reality of the goodness of persons is being contradicted by the Pharisees. In the Gospel for today, the Pharisees made judgments about the disciples of Jesus. For the Pharisees, they have interpreted God's law in a way that is focused on external actions as a sign of goodness or badness. That if you don't do certain things, you don't purify yourself, you don't wash the things that you use, like cups or plates, or you don't wash your hands in a particular way, you are an unclean person. Unclean, not in a hygienic way, but unworthy to come before the Lord. That you are not worthy to be part of God's Kingdom.

So the Pharisees have a tendency to make judgments of people. That certain people are unclean, and are not part of the community, not part of God's love, not part of God's family. For example, sinners, lepers, tax collectors, people who are not Jews, people who handle the dead, people who do not follow the rules - they are not seen by the Pharisees as belonging to God's family. They are not saved by God. Only those who are following these rules and regulations that have been created by the Pharisees are saved.

And Jesus came to the defense of the disciples. He first let the Pharisees see how wrong they are, in making these rules to determine who is good or bad. He said, as Isaiah prophesied, "These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me". The prophet Isaiah would say that the Pharisees do external actions as if they were following God's law. But in their hearts, they are dividing the community. They are selfish and proud. They don't want to be with the poor or the sinners. They just want to be part of the elite. They honor the Lord with their lips, but in their hearts, they don't really love.

And this is what Jesus is trying to tell us. Even if you follow all of these rules, but if you don't love, it's meaningless. God only intends us to love one another. To live as a loving community. The Pharisees were just focused on cleanliness, on being obedient to the rules, on doing the right things. But they did not focus on what is in the heart. Therefore, Jesus also criticized them by saying, "You say you honor your father and your mother. Whoever curses his father or mother shall die." They have a rule about taking care of father and mother. And yet, the Pharisees break this rule. If a person will say, "Well, I have an inheritance, or I have money which I am supposed to use to support my parents, but I will offer it to the temple, as an offering to God, dedicated to God", they will not stop that person. They will allow that person to just let his parents suffer, while he gives the money to the temple. And the Pharisees agree to that, because they get the money. They disregard the welfare of the father and mother, because they will receive the money that was meant for the father or the mother. That is why Jesus told them that they are hypocrites. The Pharisees have put the laws of their temple, the rules of their temple, ahead of the people.

If our rules do not help people, we have to change these rules. Rules are not meant for their own sake. We only make rules to help our loving. When we make rules, they are supposed to help us be more loving to others. When we say yes or no to things, it is to order that we love one another. It is to put order on what is harmful, and what is not harmful, on what is helpful and what is not helpful. We make rules, not to show who is more powerful or who is more rich. Our rules should reflect the law of love of God. Our rules should reflect the goodness that God sees in us. Our rules should allow us to come together as a loving community.

And so my brothers and sisters, let us be reminded by these words of Jesus. Let us not focus on external things. Let us not focus on measuring goodness, based on external things. Ultimately, it is based on what is in our hearts. We do good things or bad things, based on what is in our heart. If you do a wrong thing, you should look at what is inside of you that made you do that wrong thing. When we want to be good, it comes from the inside - that is why we are able to love, we are able to forgive, we are able to be patient, compassionate and understanding. Start from within, and then your actions will reflect what is inside of you. If you try to live up to the goodness that God has given you since the beginning of creation, then your actions, your lives, your relationships, will also be filled with goodness.

In this coming season of Lent, let us re-assess our lives, our actions, our relationships. Do they come from a heart filled with love, or is it all about following rules? Are we truly seeking to live out the goodness that God has already placed in our hearts? God is inviting us to live out our true identity - our identity as people of faith, people of goodness, people of love.