Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary
Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
August 29, 2021

I recall sitting in the back seat of our bright green 1954 Chevrolet, making our way home after Sunday Mass, where a big dinner awaited us.(Tradition)

My sister and myself would be going on about the man in front of us with a crazy tie. Or we might be having a giggle over the “bowl of false fruit” on a neighbor lady’s new hat. Back then, coat and tie were the proper church attire, and women seemed to be in a competition to find the most outlandish hat. It was unheard of for a woman to enter a church without a head covering. (Tradition)

The organist/cantor, a good and tireless disciple, perched in the choir loft in the rear of the church, was fair game for what we thought to be witty criticism. Of course, back then, we Catholics were accustomed to being sung to, rather than raising our own voices in praise. (Tradition) So we had the time to critique the cantor.

We would continue in that vein until Dad would interrupt us with words to this effect:

If you two had been praying like you’re supposed to at Mass, you wouldn’t even notice those things.

That would quiet us down, at least until the drive home on the next Sunday morning.

That remark by my Dad had an impact on me that has survived and surfaced many times over my life. It comes to mind especially when I am reflecting on Gospel passages where the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees are challenging Jesus.

“THE LAW” and the customs and traditions that are dictated by, or spring up around “THE LAW” certainly are important in every religion. They are one of the things that bind us together and identify us.

In Jesus’s time, ritual purity was strictly defined and expected to be strictly observed. But, as we see in this passage, it is quite possible to have perfectly clean hands but an unclean heart.

Moreover, when our heart isn’t pure, very often our thoughts are likewise unclean. When we come to worship with clean hearts, our minds and our eyes…are “LIFTED UP TO THE LORD.” When we direct our entire being towards Christ, there is no time or desire to notice the ties, or hats, or sour notes, or unclean hands of our sisters and brothers. Our focus is on our God and we resist all distractions.

So…LIFT UP YOUR HEARTS…and minds, and eyes…to give thanks to the Lord our God…because it is RIGHT AND JUST!

It is “right and just,” and it is proper prayer. And when you pray properly, you have neither the time nor the inclination to notice and pass judgment on those around you.

Go in the Peace of Christ!

Thanks be to God.