22nd Sunday Cycle B 2012
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.
Today’s readings from Sacred Scripture, each in its own way, are looking at the Word of God as a law that man must follow to please God and attain salvation. St. James says bluntly “Be doers of the Word and not just hearers of the Word.” The expression “doer of the word” implies acting; and acting on the Word of God clearly means understanding the Word as a directive or norm of action, in short a law, the Law of Christ. The expression “hearer of the Word” would refer to faith, belief in the teaching of Christ, in short, dogmatic belief. St. James makes it perfectly clear that Christians are not just to hear the word as a dogma to be believed, but we Christians are to act faithfully on that Word, as a Truth that becomes for us a law to be fulfilled in our daily actions.
Christianity has never been simply a religion of dogma, has never been a kind of religious philosophy presenting dogmas about God, man, the creation, heaven and hell. It has always been a religion of Truth to be believed and Truth to be put into action as the law we must live by in this world. Christians are not philosophers who simply seek the truth; we are not to be simply theoreticians who are fulfilled by contemplation of the truth. We are believers in the Truth of God and believers who put their beliefs into action in this world. We are to be doers of the Word we hear and believe, as a witness to Christ, and unless we are doers, even our faith is called into question – do we really believe in the Word as Truth?
Today the Church professes her faith in the Word of God in a world that thinks that objective truth is impossible for man, at least when it comes to the truth about God, the truth about man’s spiritual being and destiny, the truth about the moral law. The Church’s claim to preach the truth in these areas is seen by the “enlightened” folk as arrogance, intolerance, divisive and intolerable in a pluralistic society. Indeed, nothing is seen as more divisive in any society – including today in the Church herself by many Christians – than a professed claim to know the truth and to have the power to do the Truth. How sad that many in the Church today will agree with the relativism which generates the denial that truth is knowable, and with God’s grace doable.
Thus we have the troubling phenomenon of Catholics picking and choosing what to believe and what moral norms to live by, as if the Church does not really possess the Word of God, that is, the Truth of Jesus Christ. Incessantly we hear the call from society for the Catholic Church to change its moral teachings and even its belief that Jesus is the Savior of all mankind, the true Messiah, the Son of God, and sadly some Christians, even some Catholics have joined this chorus of unbelief.
But the fact is that true Christianity cannot deny the truth that Christ is the way, the truth and the life, the sole mediator of salvation and the true Son of God, without that brand of Christianity ceasing to exist. Moreover, the Church cannot deny her divinely appointed role to teach the truth about faith and morals as the Ambassador and witness to Christ, as his voice in the world, and bishops or priests who cease to carry out this mandate of Christ, cease to be of any real use to the teaching mission of the Church. After all, it was not the Church who decided that she would be the spokesman of Christ, the bearer of the Word of God into the world, but Christ Himself who commanded her to do so: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Christ ordered the Church to teach the truth and personally guarantees her teaching as truth by his own presence till the end of time. To deny that she has the power to teach us truth in the name of Christ, is in the end to deny Christ Himself.
The world always needs the truth of Jesus’ teaching, but how badly our world needs the Truth of Christ today. Modern man with all the technological and scientific genius at his disposal today does not know these deepest truths about what man really is, what the destiny of man truly is meant to be, who God is and how man is to be saved through Jesus Christ. Ignorant of these deepest truths about life and destiny, modern man stumbles on in blindness, groping for answers in the face of the most tremendous threats to humanity, the ongoing evils of war and mindless violence, the degradation of the human person by anti-life applications of science, the perversion of sacred institutions like marriage and the family. Christ warned us that he is the light of mankind, and if we do not walk in His light, then we will walk in darkness, into ever greater darkness.
God’s truth is light for man’s life and guidance for our footsteps. We heard that in Deuteronomy in the first reading: 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. Fidelity to the Word of God as our law is the proof of a higher wisdom and intelligence. Infidelity then must be the witness to our blindness and stupidity. The words from Ps. 15, our responsorial assure as that if we live by God’s law is safe: Whoever does these things shall never be disturbed. Then James tells us to: Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. That is true Wisdom, but only if we become doers of that Word and not just hearers.
Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus gives us a portrait of this wisdom when he teaches us that the Law of God is not just about external observances which can and often do mask an interior corruption of the human soul that will inevitably break out in the exterior crimes. The very Wisdom of God, Jesus Christ, teaches us that all moral evils in this world, all the crimes of passion and avarice and violence have their roots in the human heart, Scripture’s description of the human soul:
“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.”
Thus Jesus teaches us that all the evils that afflict the human race by the instrumentality of man’s own actions have their origin in the human soul, in what the Bible calls man’s heart. Thus, Jesus came not simply as a kind of philosopher who teaches these deep truths, but he came to redeem mankind by truly healing the wounds of our souls that manifest themselves externally in all the evils we experience in our world. These deep roots of evil will not be, cannot be cured by science or by government programs that can only deal with the external effects of these interior wounds in man’s soul. Only Christ can penetrate to the roots of sin and help us to root them out by the grace that He alone can give to us in the sacraments and through the prayers of the Church.
This is the true and higher Wisdom that Christ brings to man, for man’s salvation. This is the Word of God that He has entrusted to His Church to hand on to us, the saving truth that we are put into practice so we can be God’s children and witnesses to the Power and Truth of Jesus Christ. This is the great wisdom that the people who walk in darkness need to see in us, so that they can believe in Christ. Amen