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The WORD. The TRUTH.

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Homily for Tuesday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, 08 February 2022, Mk 7:1-13

More and more I realize that our religiosity is not always about worshipping God. That sometimes, it is more about worshipping our own image of God. That instead of bringing honor and glory to God, we could actually be blaspheming God, and our acts of worship can become acts of idolatry. We can build temples and dedicate them to God but what God sees from heaven are towers of Babel, monuments dedicated to human pride and arrogance.

This is the thought that seems to run through our readings today. In the Gospel, Jesus is quoting from the prophet Isaiah to describe the kind of pietism that is being promoted by the Pharisees. It is the line that says, “This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” (Isa 29:13)

You can replace “lips” there and still get the same sense, like, “This people honors me with their pious rituals and religious practices, but their hearts are far from me.” They are what he calls examples of vain acts of worship. He speaks about worshipperd who look devout, reverent, and holy, but he says their religion is totally meaningless to God. They can even invoke the faith and do exactly the opposite of what God is asking of them.

For example, they defend the values of unity, fairness and harmony but they cannot stand up on the basic principles of honesty and integrity, justice and respect for life. They think of religion as something that is just between them and God and has nothing to do with them and their fellow human beings, They insist on separating their otherworldly afairs from their worldly concerns. They think they can keep God in a closet and manipulate him to do what they want for themselves.

You have heard me using the analogy of a child who unwraps a piece of candy, throws away the content and eats the wrapper. Believe me, much of what we do in religion is so focused on fancy wrappings, we often forget about the essentials of faith. The prophet Isaiah has often pointed out what he regards as foolish attitudes of many people who think they are engaged in godly activities.

Listen for example to what he says right at the very first chapter that opens his book. If I may abbreviate it, what he is saying is, “What do I care about all your offerings, prayers and sacrifices, if you cannot even stand up against evil,defend what is right, uphold what is true, if you cannot make justice your aim, redress the wronged, hear the cries of orphans and defend the widows?” (Isa 1:11-17)

In our first reading, Solomon is dedicating the newly constructed temple to God with a humble prayer. He says, “If the heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built?” (1Kings 8:27) It is his way of saying “I am not in any position to take pride of building a house for you because I know you don’t need one and are not even asking for one. I know that this place is not really for you but for ourselves, a place where we could honor you and pray to you comfortably.”

If Isaiah opened his book with thoughts about the kind of worship that the Lord asks of us, you’d be surprised when you reach the end of the book. He closes again with the same thoughts. He says, almost in reply to Solomon, “What house can you build for me? Where is my resting place? My hand made all these things when they came to be… This is the kind of worshipper who truly honors me—the one with humble and contrite heart, the one who trembles at my word.” (Isa 66:1-2)

And so you see, we cannot claim to be God worshippers and behave as if our faith has nothing to do with politics and how we run our society. That is exactly the kind of religion that the Lord calls “vain” or “meaningless” in our readings today.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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