22nd Sunday Cycle B
Today’s readings from Sacred Scripture, each in its own way, are looking at the Word of God as the perfect law that man must follow to please God and attain salvation. St. James says quite directly “Be doers of the Word and not just hearers of the Word.” The expression “doer of the Word” implies acting on the Word of God, and it clearly means understanding the Word not merely as an idea but as a directive or norm for action, in short a law, and precisely the Law of Christ. The complimentary expression “hearer of the Word” would refer to our faith, our belief in the teaching of Christ, His Word, in short, it refers to dogmatic belief. St. James makes it perfectly clear that Christians are not to limit themselves simply to hearing the Word as a dogma to be believed, but we are also to act faithfully on that Word, as a Truth that becomes for us a law to be lived and fulfilled in our daily actions.
Christianity has never been simply a religious philosophy presenting us with ideas and dogmas about God, man, creation, heaven and hell. It has always been both a religion of Truth to be believed and Truth to be put into action as the law by which we must live our lives in this world. Christians are not like philosophers who simply seek the truth. We are not to be simply thinkers or scholars, theoreticians who find fulfillment by contemplation of ideas. Certainly we are first believers in the Truth of God, but we are also to be believers who put their beliefs into action in this world. We are to be doers of the Word that we hear and believe, as a living witness to Christ, and unless we are such doers, even our faith is called into question – do we really believe in the Word as Truth?
Today Christians professes their faith in the Word of God as Truth in the midst a world that thinks that objective truth is impossible for man to know, at least when it comes to the truth about God, the truth about man’s spiritual being and destiny, and the truth about the moral law. The Church’s claim to preach the truth in these areas is seen by the “enlightened” caste as sheer arrogance and intolerance, divisive and ironically intolerable in a pluralistic society. Indeed, nothing is seen as more divisive in such a society than a publicly professed claim to know the Truth and to have the power to do the Truth. And it is quite sad how many even in the Church today will agree with this radical relativism which generates the denial that truth is knowable, and with God’s grace doable, and whose supreme virtue is supposedly tolerance.
Thus, for decades now we have had the quite troubling phenomenon of nominal Catholics picking and choosing what they will believe and what moral norms they will live by, suggesting clearly that the Church does not really possess the Word of God, that is, the Truth of Jesus Christ. Incessantly, we hear the call arise from this neo-pagan 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. Today, these same calls at times come from with the Church, as we have seen in the coverage of the coming Synod on the Family in Rome.
But the immovable fact is that true Christianity cannot deny the truth that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, the sole mediator of salvation and the true Son of God. Where any such denial takes place, that fraudulent brand of Christianity simply ceases to exist. Moreover, the Church cannot deny her divinely appointed mission to teach the truth about faith and morals as the Ambassador and infallible witness to Jesus Christ, as his visible voice in the world, and any bishops or priests who cease to carry out this mandate of Christ will inevitably become the salt that loses its savor and is good for nothing but to be trampled underfoot. After all, it was not the Apostles who decided that they would be the spokesman of Christ, the bearer of the Word of God into the world, but Christ Himself who commanded them 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.” (Mt. 28:19-20)
Christ ordered the Church and her Apostles to teach the truth, and He personally guarantees the Church’s solemn teaching as His truth by his personal 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, and 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 man, 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 most fundamental truths about life and destiny, modern man continually 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 true light of mankind, and if we do not walk in His light, then we will walk in darkness and into ever greater darkness.
God’s truth is the gift of 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. (Dt. 4:2)
Fidelity to the Word of God as our internal law is the proof of a higher wisdom and intelligence. Infidelity then must be the witness to 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. And James tells us to: Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. (1:21) This is the true Wisdom, but it becomes ours only if we become doers of that Word and not just hearers.
Finally, in the Gospel today, Jesus gives us a critical insight 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 exterior sins. 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 true roots in 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.” (Mk. 7:21-23)
Thus Jesus teaches us that all the evils that afflict the human race through the instrumentality of man’s own actions have their origin deep in the human soul, in what the Bible calls man’s “heart.” Thus, Jesus came not simply as a kind of philosopher who teaches deep truths, but He came to redeem us 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 and 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 Jesus 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 highest Wisdom that Christ brings to man as a gift, a gift 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 called to put into practice so we can be God’s children and credible witnesses to the power and Truth of Jesus Christ. This is the saving wisdom that the people who walk in darkness need to see in us, so that they can believe in Christ. Amen