DAILY MASS READINGS (September 2, 2018)



Reading 1 (DEUTERONOMY 4:1-2, 6-8)

A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy

Moses said to the people:
“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe,
that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin upon you,
you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.
Observe them carefully,
for thus will you give evidence
of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,
who will hear of all these statutes and say,
‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’
For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him?
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?”
– The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm (PSALM 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5)

R. (1a) The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
R. The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
by whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
R. The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
shall never be disturbed.
R. The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Reading 2 (JAMES 1:17-18, 21B-22, 27)

A reading from the Letter of St. James

Dearest brothers and sisters:
All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you
and is able to save your souls.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

– The word of the Lord.

Alleluia (JAMES 1:18)

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Father willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel (MARK 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

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 summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

– The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection: We have now finished our five reflective Sundays on the Bread of Life Discourse (John 6), and now we resume to hearing the Gospel of St. Mark, which is the shortest among the four accounts. Today’s Gospel passage is a reminder to us what means to observe the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law”. The Pharisees and scribes are among the hot critics of our Lord Jesus Christ, for they seem to observe his suposedly radical behavior towards the Law. In this case, they question him on why his disciples do not wash their hands before eating as prescribed for cleansing in the tradition of the elders. Jesus denounces their hypocrisy by stating Isaiah 29:13 on how their hearts are far from God because they only cling to human traditions. Moses in the First Reading instructs the Israelites to observe the Law that they will live, and this will be done as a sign of their love and gratitude for his greatness and mercy. However these Pharisees and scribes disobeyed Moses because they came up with 613 interpretations and laws as impositions for their fellow citizens to follow. And in reality during Christ’s time, these leaders would not even observe the laws that they have made. Here in the religious context, some religions would say that eating something that is bloody is “totally forbidden by their God (on how each belief calls him)” because blood is believed to be sacred, and one who eats food with blood such as dinuguan, pork, and cattle is already dirty. In fact the other sects here in the Philippines would always accuse Roman Catholics of eating such products, particularly the dinuguan. But we Catholics have to take in mind the latter part of the Gospel Reading, when Jesus said that what makes a person defiled is not the food, but the evil intentions of the heart, such as malice, blasphemy, murder, envy, adultery, licentiousness, and many other kinds of mortal sins. Remember that our Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law because he didn’t come to abolish it, but rather fulfill it so that there is love, grace, and freedom for us Christians whenever we observe the Law.
So what is the point of this Sunday’s Readings? Simple is that we have to observe both the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. God gives us the Eternal Law, which is keenly implemented by the State to the citizens (civil law) and the Church to the lay faithful (ecclesiastical law). We are called to follow rules that we may have a better life in the society and a good relationship with the Father as his children. But we are also called to manifest the spirit of the law. In fact when laws tell us not to violate such rules that can lead to deviances, we are called to manifest the natural law/moral law, which is to discern what is good and right. If we are instructed not to steal, then we should also learn how to share. If we are instructed not to lie, then we should commit to tell the truth. If we are instructed not to violate traffic rules, then we should show a good example on the road whether we cross the street or drive a car. And in our Christian lives, St. James the Less in the Second Reading calls upon us to humbly welcome the word of God rooted in our hearts and become doers of it in concrete examples. Some would say that you do not need to have a religion in order to be saved, but the Apostle reminds us that God desires a religion that is pure and undefiled. However in reality it’s a hard struggle especially for our Catholic Church as she continues to fight the corruption and abuses by some Bishops and clergy. Yet she continues to reach out to people who are in need, as St. James would instruct to care for the widows, orphans and all those in need through the example of good devotees from the Hierarchy and the Laity. And may we always remember that God looks into our intentions of observing the Law, so that we may obey the rules and most importantly express our love and concern for others in showing them the path to goodness and kindness. Truly we are assured like the Psalmist that if we do justice and right, then we will dwell in the presence of the Lord.

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