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Gospel Reflection on Mk 7:1-13, Fifth Tuesday in Ordinary Time
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me
There was a time in my life where I became vigilant about our beliefs. I would get upset when things weren’t done the way I had come to know them. While not explicitly encouraged, this attitude was nonetheless viewed as the proper approach to the living out our faith life in the community of friends I had built.
Without contesting that there are non-negotiable parts of living our faith, I had instead taken an approach where my understanding of the proper way was always non-negotiable. When I moved away from that group of friends and found myself in a new Catholic environment, I ended up feeling lost because there was no community who fit my expectations of proper worship or works. I had made mountains of mole hills.
What I missed learning in my formation is similar to that which the Pharisees and scribes missed in theirs. The purpose of living a life in God isn’t perfection, it’s actually close to the opposite. Our purpose in living a life in God is to recognise our utmost dependence on our relationship with him, no matter how properly we strive to live it out. God alone is perfect; we make room for his perfection in us through humility.
The Israelites were brought out of Egypt for the purpose of being formed so that God could dwell with them. This has two components: freedom to worship God and holiness. They are equal (and the book of Leviticus is structured to reflect this).
The way we render worship to God can never be at the expense of how we treat others (which is how we are called to holiness). Likewise, the way we serve others can never nullify the importance of worship, especially communal. The struggle to live a life of worship and holiness is where God sees fit to dwell with us. The Pharisees believed it was more honourable to give their money to the Temple (in a self-serving way) rather than obeying the law of holiness set out for them. Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law, tells them (and us) they’ve misconstrued holiness by ignoring the higher goods of the Law (mountains) in favour of lesser goods (molehills).
Today’s Gospel reminds me that obedience to the Law means that all lesser goods must serve the higher. If they do not, it is no longer obedience to God that we offer. Sometimes we’re told we can’t be a saint without dressing a certain way or, conversely, if we don’t erase certain moral rules. Let us hold fast to those mountains so that the molehills don’t overtake the joy of him choosing to dwell with us in the struggle, for it is his dwelling in us that makes us perfect.