Reflection for Sunday, September 3, 2000: 22nd week in Ordinary Time.

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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
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We hear from a book of the Pentateuch in today's First Reading. In the first book, Genesis, we read about how Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command and so were banished from their garden. Today in the book of Deuteronomy, we hear Moses laying down the law and decrees which will lead them back to life and to their taking possession of "the land" which God wishes to give them. Adherence to these statutes and decrees will be a proof that the wisdom of God from which these came is revealed by the wisdom and intelligence of those who follow them. Moses puts it very clearly; keeping the rules is how one keeps a strong relationship with God. Obedience is a deeply felt heart experience. It is relational rather than regulatory. Obedience to God's commands then begins the return to harmony within God's garden.|In the Gospel for this weekend, Mark sets Jesus within a group of Jewish Pharisees and scribes who know and love the laws and traditions of their faith. They observe the followers of Jesus not observing the customs of washing before eating, which the "elders" prescribe. The Elders are those rabbis who have spent centuries interpreting and specifying the exact details of the Law of Moses.|Jesus responds directly the their questions about His followers. He quotes Isaiah which must have been hard to hear for them. Basically, Jesus accuses them of adhering to human traditions, which can seem like worship or relationship, but their hearts are not really in their practices. They cling to what is simply human interpretation and abandon the divine love, which has sponsored the Law.|Jesus sustains the tension by His presenting the question concerning the importance of the what we do versus the why we do. The "what" is the outward action. The "why" is the relationship, which motivates. The outer doing of something without an inner relational motivation is usually done for the sake of conformity and approval. God is not into approving, but relating lovingly with us. We can make gods out of our fellow human beings by observing what they cling to as proper, honorable and even religious. The great question of little children is applicable here: "Why are we doing this, Daddy?"|Our actions flow outside from our attitudes and dispositions inside. You can tell a young child, "Don't ask," and you can tell yourself that same thing. The scientific age demands both whats and whys. We have so many wonderful traditions in our faith, which involve certain practices and outward actions. We genuflect, bow, bless ourselves with Holy Water, abstain, refrain, kneel, stand, forgive, ask for forgiveness and perhaps not be aware of how the "why" is more important than the "what" of our doings.|Families and communities can have traditions and customary activities, all of which have stories or events, which sponsor those actions. When we tend to forget the real "why" the real story behind the doing, then we are more likely to make up a convenient explanation which might satisfy.|This weekend in North America, is Labor Day Weekend. Most of us love the day off here at the end of our summer, but we don't know so well the history and the real meaning of this holiday.|There is a term, "socialization" which describes the process of learning what actions are expected by a group, club, or community into which one is entering. We learn the dance steps so as to be like everybody else. Our faith has both "socialization" and "personalization". This latter is what Jesus is talking about at the end of today's Gospel. The interior person will be quite exterior as well when she or he is founded on a relationship with God that is so comfortable, that approval from others is not part of the dance. Jesus did not perform, but rather revealed. He did things which were based on His relationship with His Father and that was His "why" and "what". The deeds of impurity, theft, murder and the like, are based in the inside of a person. These evil actions have roots and Jesus is telling his listeners to tend to the possibility of evil which is within each of them and us and let the relationship with God and the love of God bring forth deeds of harmony which are the fruits within the Garden and Land of God. We pray with our "whys" and watch our "whats" as they reveal more about God and less about ourselves.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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