Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the Scripture passages with regards to the Law and the commandments which God has given to us all, His beloved people, beginning from the time of the Old Testament, when God first revealed His laws and His truth to the people of Israel, descendants of Abraham, whom He had chosen to be the first people He called as His own.
In the first reading today, we heard from the passage taken from the Book of Deuteronomy about the exhortation which Moses, the leader of Israel, gave to the entire people with regards to the Law which God had revealed before the people, and which He had expected the people to follow and obey. It was then also that, it was mentioned how the people must follow the Law without adding or taking away anything from it, but just obey the Law in its complete fullness.
And this is related to what the Lord Himself presented before His people, in the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. In that Gospel passage, we heard of the frustration and the anger which the Lord felt towards the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who He decried as hypocrites with a shallow and superficial faith in God. This means that they did not keep a true and genuine faith.
He took great issue out of this particularly because those people were the ones entrusted to safeguard and preserve the Law, as well as teaching them to the people that they may keep them from generation to generation. They were the ones who were supposed to safeguard the Law from corruption and perversion of falsehood, and yet, they were the very ones who had corrupted and subverted the Law to their own selfish purposes.
The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law followed their own interpretation of the Law and the commandments, insisting that the people must follow their version of the Law and the commandments. And their version of the Law demands that everyone must follow all the rigid and unreasonable demands of their interpretation of the Law. They demanded many external observances of the Jewish customs, right to the smallest details.
For example, in today’s Gospel, the Pharisees took great issue and were offended that the disciples of the Lord did not follow the strict requirement of ritual cleansing and washing of oneself before a meal, which in fact involves a great detail of washing sequences, of the whole hands and arms right to the elbow. To the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, because the disciples did not obey the Law in the manner they prescribed, the disciples were considered unclean and unworthy.
That was the same sentiment they likely shared about the Lord Jesus, with Whom they had many issues and clashes throughout the occasions of His ministry. They thought of Him as someone Who is against the Law, even to the point of accusing Him of committing blasphemy against God, and of spreading His supposedly unorthodox teachings and ways among the people.
Yet, what the Lord Jesus taught was the truth, and it was the pure Law of God revealed to the people without the corruption of the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the past generations of the people of God. He revealed to everyone the true meaning of what God has given to His people in His Law, the Law of Love, that is the set of ordinances and rules meant to bring the people of God to understand the fullness of His love.
Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, unlike the laws and rules practiced and propagated by the Pharisees, which were exclusive and punitive in nature, in how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law excluded and were prejudiced against those who did not follow their version of the Law, the true Law of God is inclusive and loving, and was meant to show the people how to love God and to love one another.
The Lord Himself revealed that the entire Law could be summarised into two key commandments, first of which is to love the Lord, Our God with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our strength. He is the first and foremost One for us to focus our love and attention on, and He must exist at the very core and centre of our lives. This is the key principle of the Law.
And because we love God, Who is so full of love, then naturally we must imitate His love for us mankind, and show the same love towards our fellow men, the second of the two key commandments of the Law. This means that for us to be able to obey the Law in its entirety and in its true intention, we must then internalise the Law and understand what it means for us to be followers of God.
First of all, the Law is a gift from God and is about bringing us closer to God and to help us to know more about Him and to get closer to Him. It is not for the glorification of ourselves just as how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. Those people abused and misused the Law to suit their own desires and to satisfy their human pride. Instead of using the Law to bring the people of God closer to Him, they chased people away from God by their exclusivism and self-righteous attitude.
As the Lord Jesus rightly pointed out in another occasion in the Gospels, the Pharisees, teachers of the Law and others did not observe the Law because they truly understood the Law and its purpose, but rather because they wanted to feel and gain the glory and praise from man, to feel the euphoria and pride of being at the centre of attention and human applauses, when they were praised for their supposed piety and obedience to the Law.
Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how about we ourselves? Have we acted in this manner in our own lives? It is a sad reality for the Church, seeing how many of the faithful coming for Mass or any other Church activities, not because they loved God or were filled with the desire to love Him, but because they wanted to be seen by others, vying with each other for prestige, fame and glory. That is also how bickering and rivalry end up creating bitterness and pain in the Church, in many Church ministries and activities.
And when these things happen, we end up causing scandal for our faith, because instead of showing true examples of Christian discipleship and faith, we end up turning people away from the Lord, causing many to be disillusioned with the Church and the faith by our actions. That was exactly what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done as well, turning the people of God seeking His mercy and forgiveness away and misguiding many others from the true path towards God.
Many of us unfortunately do not truly appreciate and understand the importance of obeying the Law of God in our own respective lives. That is why many of us eventually lose our faith and become indifferent. Many of us do not know why we have to come for the Holy Mass on Sundays of the Lord, and we did these just because it is merely an obligation to do so, or for some of us, we were afraid that if we did not obey, we would end up falling into hell.
That is why, it is important, brothers and sisters in Christ, to understand and appreciate both the letter and the spirit of the Law. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as well as many of us only focus on the letter of the Law, but do not understand the spirit of the Law. What is this spirit of the Law? It is the true understanding of what God’s Law means for us, that is to bring us closer to God, to be more like God, to be loving just as the Lord, Our God is full of love.
Therefore, today, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all deeply reflect in our hearts and minds, and be thankful to God for what He has done for us. He has loved us so much, that despite our wretched state, our unworthiness and our disobedience against Him, all the sins we have committed against Him, He was still so full of love and mercy for us, that He gave us all His Law and Commandments. And He gave us His own Beloved Son, through Whom we receive the fullness of truth of the Law, and the perfect proof of His love.
For He gave everything to us, even to the point of suffering and dying for us on the cross, so that by His selfless love, He may bring us all into a new life and existence, no longer burdened by sin, but each and every one of us may be worthy of God and His love, and to receive forever, the fullness of His inheritance and love. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to love us and guide us in our journey of life, that we may reach Him through the guiding hands of the Law He has given us. May God bless us all. Amen.