Track 1: Intimacy with God
A reading From the Song of Solomon:
The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land. (Song of Solomon 2:8-12)
God is calling us. He is our beloved. Are we ready to go out and meet him? Or do we feel unworthy? Are we afraid? Maybe God is angry with us? How do we talk to God? If we are listening, we can speak to him like he speaks to us, with tender love and affection.
King David knew how to talk with God. As the psalmist he wrote:
My heart is stirring with a noble song;
let me recite what I have fashioned for the king;
my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer.
You are the fairest of men;
grace flows from your lips,
because God has blessed you for ever.
Your throne, O God, endures for ever and ever,
a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom;
you love righteousness and hate iniquity.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness above your fellows. (Psalm 45:1-2, 7-8)
Was David talking about himself? Was he talking about his kingdom? In a way, yes. He stood in for Jesus until he came to the earth. But David knew he was speaking to Jesus. Jesus’ throne will last forever. God the Father has anointed him above all others. He is king of king and lord of lords. At his name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Isaiah 45:23).
Jesus has borne all our sins on the cross so that we might have intimacy with him. He did not die for us that we might continue to be estranged from him. Yes, we will have to confess our sins when we are in his presence. That should not stop us from wanting to be in his presence.
We are the fruit which Jesus has produced by his generosity and love. James writes:
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. (James 1:17-18)
Do we want to honor him and show him our appreciation? Jesus is speaking tender words of love to us. He is waiting for us to speak the same way back to him. What a joy it is to speak with him that way. He loves us. Do we love him? If so, we must tell him. That is how relationships are formed. It is our joy to tell him.
Track 2: Religion that Is Pure
|Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were very pius people. They took their religion seriously, but what sort of religion was it? In today’s Gospel we read:
When the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” (Mark 7:1-8)
James speaks about the religion of the Pharisee and about the religion of today’s Pharisees:
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:26-27)
We tend to live compartmentally. We may have a very pious religion but it does not always have a positive affect on our daily lives. The Pharisees were going through the motions. They were trying to follow the Mosaic Law, but they lost site of what this law was about. It could be summed up as loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.
What gives the Pharisees away, and some of us modern-day Pharisees as well, is what comes out of the mouth. James reminds us:
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
The tongue is difficult to bridle. It seems to have a life of its own and takes great delight in putting us in a bad light at the most inopportune time. It reveals our inner thoughts and character.
Jesus explained what is in the human heart counts more than what religions practice we may be following:
Jesus called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:14-15, 21-23)
How are we then to live? The psalmist tells us:
Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?
who may abide upon your holy hill?
Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,
who speaks the truth from his heart.
There is no guile upon his tongue;
he does no evil to his friend;
he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor. (Psalm 15:1-3)
This we cannot do without God’s help. But we can do it. And when we do it a witness that the world most desperately needs to see. Mose wrote this concerning the commandments of God:
You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today? (Deuteronomy 4:6-8)