Grace to you!
I came into the chapel for my daily adoration and scriptural reading. The church has perpetual Eucharistic adoration. Parishioners alternate between the hours to adore the Lord. It was very early, around 3:00am, the hour of mercy.
As I opened the sacristy door into the chapel, I noticed that someone was already sitting at my favorite spot. The chapel has many pews that could seat at least a hundred people. Only the man and I were in the chapel.
The sight of the man occupying “my spot” became a distraction. For the next hour until he left, I was not completely focused on the Lord. Every now and then, thoughts of my favorite spot and its convenience got in the way of my prayer. Doesn’t he know that’s my spot? Didn’t he see other empty pews to seat in? I went on and on.
The Lord used the event to make me more aware of how routine—no matter how good it may be—, could be a stumbling block in our spiritual life. I felt firsthand how “human tradition” could be a barrier to the Spirit.
Perhaps, similar things happen in our parishes too. Some people are uncomfortable or distracted when other families occupy their favorite spot during the Sunday Eucharistic celebration. Parking or seating in a particular spot in the church has become a sort of family tradition. It’s our territory. It’s our place. It’s our thing.
There are certain rituals we may have imbibed over the years as individuals, as a family or as a community which become our tradition. If we are not self-reflective, and do not listen to God, they elbow out the Spirit of God.
Human tradition in this context could be described as those ways of living that have developed over the years and become our collective, default life-pattern. Many of our human traditions are good. Many are also not in line with God’s ways.
We tend to be married to our ways of doing things. We hold on to them as our core value. They become for us a more compelling norm for action. Before long, we see them as universal principles. We tend to judge others by those traditions and subject God’s commandment to them. Or rather, we make them God’s Law though they are our own making. Instead of allowing God’s commandment to shape our actions, we want our actions to determine what is God’s commandment.
We could overcome the temptation of relying on our traditions by measuring our lives and attitudes based on the revealed Word of God, Jesus Christ. We learn from the Lord how to live life. We learn from the Lord the way to true purity. God renews the human condition. The Lord renews any tradition if it is open to his Spirit.
In the Old Testament, Moses reminded the people of the need to follow the commandments of the Lord. They were not to cherry pick, or replace them with their own ways of life (Deut. 4:1-8) The Lord’s commandment should guide their way and their step.
The Lord Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, brings the same truth closer to our hearts. He denounces the externalism of the religionists of his time, their hypocrisy, and pointed the disciples to the true renewal of the heart in the Spirit. He points us to the transformation that must begin from within the heart and not be based on mere external practices. Quoting the prophesy of Isaiah, the Lord says: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ (Mk 7:6-7).
Rituals not tied to the Spirit are empty rituals. They are mere human tradition and do not give life. In fact, the Lord sees following rituals without inner conversion as hypocrisy (Mk 7:6).
Saint James tells us that pure religion isn’t in the external practices and observances that are not rooted in the purity of heart, and the Spirit of Christ. Pure and unspoiled religion begins from within, inner transformation, and is lived out in action. It is a heart renewed from within that carries out life-saving actions of charity. It is the practice of charity and living lives uncontaminated by wordiness (Jas 1:27).
This week, we ask the Good Lord to renew us from within so that our actions would be inspired by the purity that flows from his Spirit. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[22ndSunday Ordinary Time B: Deut. 4:1-2, 6-8; Jas 1:17-18, 21-22, 27; Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.