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He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy 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 as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
Welcome to September, a time of change and transition. We move from the activities of summer to pumpkin everything, apple cider donuts, and crisper air.
Our scriptures today are about essential change. Moses starts out with a long dissertation about the new Law of God. The people were to observe it, were not to change it, and in honoring the Law, they would find themselves the envy of nations and peoples. In honoring, maintaining, and keeping the Law, the people of Israel would show a unique wisdom and a very special closeness to God.
It seems kind of obvious to us, at least at first glance. God gives us something remarkably special, and if we have any sense at all, we honor it and respect it. We would want to brag about it, ‘look at what God has done for me.’ We would follow the dictates of whatever God has given us. Who would hide what God had done for them? Who would ever want to go against God? To do so, we would show ourselves as the opposite of smart.
Similarly, St. Paul speaks of the great gifts we have received. He was the biggest bragger of all â€“ look what we have, look what God has done and revealed. Letâ€™s live it large: welcome the word, be doers of the word, donâ€™t delude yourselves.
Jesus brings this all together. He chastises the Pharisees because they had let the Law become only a series of doing â€“ not living. They not only did that, they didnâ€™t evangelize Godâ€™s word. They kept it all locked up and just for them. Jesus said on other occasions that they: â€œshut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.â€ And in another: â€œyou have taken away the key to knowledge. You have hindered those who were entering.” Not only were they failing to live Godâ€™s commands from the heart, going against them, they were hiding away His gifts.
Our call is to do religion right. Let us honor God with our lips and our worship â€“ and from there do evangelization. Right religion means changed living – faith from the heart, showing Godâ€™s gifts, putting it all out there for the world to see. Tell the great gifts. Show them off. Listen to that little voice that prompts you to stop, turn, and invite.