Sunday, August 30, 2009  Coming to Mass does not automatically make us better Christians, any more than standing around in a garage makes us into a car.

Homily, Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fr. Ed Oen, C.PP.S

Who were the wisest people on this earth 3,000 years ago? Was it the Egyptians who built the pyramids that are still in existence today? Was it the Greeks who produced great philosophers and great painters such as Plato and Aristotle?  Was it the Babylonians who built a strong empire? Or could it the uneducated Hebrew slaves who wandered for 40 years in the desert to reach the Promised Land?

If you guessed the Hebrews, you were correct. They understood that God had given them a revelation through the Ten Commandments in about 1250 BC to Moses. They knew what God said to them. They possessed wisdom that was greater than any other nation.

The Hebrew people held that the oldest people were the wisest. They did not have libraries. The people went to the oldest person and asked as they were considered the wisest. These people had the wisdom that came to them through that revelation. 

In the First Reading this morning from Deuteronomy, Moses exhorted the Israelites to keep the Commandments.

In the Gospel, we heard about the disciples who failed to keep one of the human laws – the washing of hands before eating. Why was there such a law? It had nothing to do with hygiene. The washing of hands before eating today is done for cleansing purposes. But the Jews washed their hands because it reminded them they were set apart, consecrated to God. It reminded them to live by their values, unlike those in surrounding pagan nations. The scribes and Pharisees however were critical of the disciples who failed to wash their hands. Jesus challenged them, saying that God looks at the heart .. not the hands. He looks to see if we have love in our hearts.

In the Book of Genesis, we read that Cain offered the best lamb; Abel offered the best animal. But God did not accept the gift by Cain because God knew that Cain did not have love for his brother.

Jesus looked in the hearts of the Pharisees and saw they that would keep all the laws .. but as in today’s Gospel, Jesus calls them hypocrites. That’s a Greek word for “actor.” Jesus told the Pharisees that they were doing things for a reward in this life, not the next – that they were doing things for people to see.

God sees into our hearts. He knows if we are here at Mass for the love of Him or if we are here for some other reason. Coming to Mass does not automatically make us better Christians, any more than standing around in a garage makes us into a car. You don’t become a car by standing around in a garage – and you don’t become a better Christian by standing around here in church. You have to be involved with the singing, saying the prayers.  We should not be discouraged if we come to Mass for a less noble reason. Some people might be here this morning thinking, “Well, if I don’t go to Mass, I may go to hell.”

People go through various stages in their lives. We are not condemning people who come to church because their parents made them. We go through stages in our lives. That stage is called childhood. As we grow older, we grow into a new stage. That is sometimes called a “policeman stage” – that God sees us all the time, when we are good and when we are bad.  Hopefully, we get beyond that stage – that you don’t come to Mass because you’ll burn in Purgatory or worse yet, in Hell. That is referred to as the “suspicion stage.” And hopefully, you get beyond that to come to Mass out of love of God – perhaps even on a weekday. Hopefully we will all grow through these stages and reach the stage of “love and conviction” – where we come to Mass out of love for God. We can at least try this morning to praise God, to thank Him for His great love. We ask Him to help us grow spiritually, to help us grow a community of faith. This church was built so that people could come together as a community of faith. Mr. Satory, when he decorated this church in 1901, he said that he wanted this church to be more than just a building – but a symbol to God – to remind us that we have all the Christian tradition. We could sit here for hours and just mediate on some of the things that symbolized on the walls here. This church building itself is a very uplifting experience. But that’s not completely why we come to church. We come to build the family of God. We come here to learn from the example of the other people in our community. And we come here to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

The Commandments can make us wise; the Commandments tell us what God wants of us. The Commandments are like signs along the highway .. to help us get to our destination safely. Jesus cut the Commandments down to two: Love God and Love your neighbor.

We thank God this morning for the wisdom to stay on the road so that some day we may be with Him.

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