Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Dt 4:1-2, 6-8
2) Jas 1:17-18, 21-22, 27
Gospel: Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
The first reading today is kind of a vanilla text. It’s your basic Bible message in a not particularly memorable form. Without vivid imagery or clever phrases, Moses tells the Israelites to keep to the way of life that God has given them.
His message — “obey God” — is important, of course, but it plods along with generic references to “statutes and decrees,” “commandments,” “statutes,” more “statutes and decrees,” and finally “this whole law.” It’s tempting to mentally click on the X, close this selection out and hope that the next reading will be more compelling.
But wait! As a lover of vanilla, let me suggest that Moses’ bland words can have an impact on us, if we work with them. How?
Take the advice seriously. Moses is giving the Israelites reasons for keeping God’s law. His reasons are worth considering, and they accumulate. Living God’s way will bring life and security, he says. Other people (well, at least some) will admire you for following such wise laws. God will be close to you. The laws are just.
“Look,” Moses says, “I’m reasoning with you. This is not an appeal to authority but an appeal to what you know in your heart is right and good.”
Do I really believe that obeying God’s instructions can make a tremendous positive difference in my life?
Fill in the blanks. Obviously, Moses can’t tell us where each of us is deviating from God’s instructions for living. Here Moses doesn’t even mention particular aspects of God’s law; he just speaks in terms of “statutes,” “decrees,” “commandments.”
But today’s psalm response and second reading offer areas for consideration, such as hurtful speech (texting, tweeting, posting) and neglecting the needs of people around us.
What aspect of my behavior is the Holy Spirit bringing to mind?
Feel the urgency. Moses is preaching to the Israelites camped on the east side of the Jordan, at the end of a difficult, 40-year journey through a wilderness. Within days, they will cross the river and enter the land God has promised them for so long.
How crucial it is that they listen to Moses now, if their life in the land is to be peaceful and productive, rather than strife-torn, ending in destruction.
How much may be at stake in whether I respond to God’s word in my conscience?
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.