Why do we do the things we do? Certainly our education influences many of the choices we make, but what is the final authority we look to to guide our lives? Is it a political entity, the media or the friendships we have formed? Is it the Word of God?
We see in the Old Testament how God chose a particular people to be His own so that all humanity might know what it means to be faithful to the One True God and to receive His favor. The first reading reveals one essential component of this faithful relationship- the commandments God gave His chosen people through Moses. Of these commandments Moses says, “Observe them carefully, for thus you will give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’”
Wisdom and intelligence were measured by the closeness to God that the Chosen People experienced when they were faithful to the law that was set before them. This is the same law that is set before us. We are Judeo-Christian and what the Chosen People received from God through Moses and the prophets has also been given to us. As Jesus said, “All of the law and prophets are summed up in the two greatest commandments. We must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart and strength and our neighbor as our self.” If we keep these commandments we will be wise and intelligent people. If we do not, no matter what else we accomplish, we will be foolish, unhappy and hopeless.
God has a great plan for humanity in general and for each and every one of us in particular. We can only discover our personal plan that will allow us to reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity by drawing close to God. We do that by being faithful to what He has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. This is the authority that Jesus Christ left us so that we might remain close to him and receive the grace we need to make decisions that may be difficult, but in the end lead to wholeness and hope.
This authority will often be in conflict with the wisdom of the world. We see the wisdom of the world in the entertainment and music that consistently insult the dignity of men and women, and in the fashions that continue to become more immodest, even for pre-teens. How can Christians be a light in the world when they look just like the world?
Any good thing can be abused and misused. In the Gospel we see religious leaders using the law for their own purpose. In order to observe the law, over the course of years, they added on hundreds of precepts for the people to follow. The intentions may have been good, but in the end the precepts at times became more of a burden than a help in keeping the law. In today’s reading the Pharisees try to use the ritual cleansing to trap Jesus. The primary intention of this ritual is purity of heart. A clean heart is more important than washed hands. The outward sign of the cleansing was supposed to reflect that which was interior.
In this case Jesus read their hearts and chastised them by explaining that what is truly unclean comes from within a person: “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed , malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly.” These are what defile a person.
It is not easy to live each day with a clean heart in a world that has no regard for God or His law. Jesus said it would be difficult to follow him. He said we must deny our self and take up our cross each day. He also knows at times we will fall. For this reason he gives us the sacraments, especially reconciliation, so we can receive the Eucharist with a clean heart.
These two sacraments, reconciliation and Eucharist, fortified by daily prayer, make it possible to stay close to God, to be faithful to His laws and discover His plan for us that leads to happiness. Prayer is not only essential for our relationship with God; it also strengthens our relationship with one another. It is important for a husband and wife to pray together and to pray with their children. We should pray before every thing we do, asking for God’s help. Our Blessed Mother wants to obtain for us the grace we need to be faithful. Praying the Rosary will help us to stay close to God and stay together as a family.
Let us pray that our great nation will be filled with people who are truly wise and intelligent, because of our faithfulness to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures, the Church and the lives of the saints.