Often we do a job because we have to. We endure grumpy bosses, difficult work days, and school obligations because we expect that there is a payoff or an end worth striving for. Our hope is that one day, after all of our toil and effort, we will arrive: satisfied.
The generosity of our God is lavished upon every one of us! I find it funny that many equate happiness with getting whatever they want whenever they want it. Often when we pursue something that is considered by the world to be necessary, we find ourselves worn out and dissatisfied after we’ve gained it. What we really need is to walk in the way that the Lord has cleared, prepared, and given to us.
The First Reading:
The land that God gave to Israel was a complete gift! In order for them to truly live and take possession of the land, the Lord gave them statutes and decrees, not to restrict or hinder them, but rather, to enable them the greatest opportunity for success. By obeying the Lord, Israel would get all that they longed for, and they would witness to the nations a God, which juxtaposed with theirs, is without question worthy of worship! We see that as the Lord prepares a way for us to live in gratuitous victory, He is also, through us, making a way for others to experience His blessings.
Even in the Psalm we repeat: “One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” To be a person of justice is to give to God and to others that which they are due. When we think upon truth and don’t slander or harm others, we act in a way that not only bespeaks an earlier time with the Lord in the Garden of Eden, but points us to the reality of where we will reside for all eternity: in the presence of the Lord. In all actuality, we won’t accidentally find ourselves living in the presence of the Lord. The choices that we are making today impact our tomorrow, and these choices certainly impact those around us. It was true for Israel and it is true for us as well! God wants to pour upon us His generosity. He has so many gifts and they are ours to receive with humility.
The Second Reading
We are encouraged in the second reading to acknowledge the goodness of our God and to live in a manner that reflects this generosity. I love the practicality of what real religion/ goodness looks like: care for the orphans and widows and keep unstained by the world. In the words of our Psalm, we are to do justice and live in the presence of the Lord!
The Gospel takes us to the heart of the matter. We must not become distracted by anything that leads us from the center of God’s calling, from the gifts we’ve been given and the opportunities we have to impact others. To be scrupulous and focus our attention on things that are not significant is to live in deception. We are not to honor God with our lips and have our hearts far from the Lord. Jesus talks about the reality of what comes out of our mouths as being the sign of where we are in our spiritual journey. While God is the giver of all that is good and true and beautiful, it is the tendency of humanity to focus upon the superficial and to foster plasticity and external appearances in order to pretend we are better than we are. The truth is there before us: receive the gift of God and live in a manner that will impact others for the better, and you will find yourself satisfied. We can be like the Pharisees though, who worry about traditions of men, honoring with their lips, with hearts far from God, or we can live in accordance with God’s heart and impact the world.
In the final analysis I think this is where we find ourselves today: are we living from the motivation that comes from receiving God’s generous gifts, or are we trying to please Him by doing and focusing upon the traditions the world holds dear? Are we moving from His gifts, or are we pretending to be something we are not? The choice we make in the end will impact us and others.