The past eighteen months has seen new practices come into what we do at Mass in terms of hygiene. We are now all expected to sanitise as we enter and leave church, the priest and deacon must sanitise before and after touching the sacred vessels associated with communion and the distribution of communion and the readers have been sanitising before and after going to the ambo to proclaim the Word of God. It remains to be seen how many of these practices will remain as we learn to live with the Coronavirus in our midst.

In the reading from Deuteronomy today, we hear Moses say that the people were not to add anything or take anything away from the laws and customs handed down, they were to observe them so that they can have life. Moses also expected that if other people saw them living the laws and customs then they would notice just how close this people were to God. Through their observations of these laws and customs, the Holy Spirit would grant them wisdom and understanding; and they would become a great nation, established by God. We know however, that many of them failed to follow the laws and established other customs and it would be another generation of the Chosen People who would eventually enter the land of milk and honey.

St James’ letter also talks about stability, this time he emphasises that God does not alter and there is not even the hint of a shadow of a change. God, who is perfect, has no need to change. The change has to be in us; we must change to become more like God. The changes we make are not to be just superficial, we are to follow the Word of God, we are to listen to it and not deceive ourselves. We usually know when we have done something wrong or strayed from God’s teaching. We are not to allow the evil one to encourage us to paper over the cracks. When we recognise our sins, we must make amends at the earliest opportunity.

For us, as Catholics, we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As the name suggests it reconciles us with God and our Community, but also brings inner peace; there is no longer any need to try and deceive ourselves when we have made peace with God and received God’s forgiveness. I know how much at peace I felt recently after taking part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In St Mark’s Gospel we hear the Pharisees try to pick fault with the behaviour of the disciples. Jesus turns their criticism on its head and holds it as a mirror for them to look at themselves and reflect. They criticise the disciples for not following the cleansing customs before a meal. Jesus points out – using scripture – that they are exhibiting the traits of those who pay lip-service to the laws and customs and that those who do so then their worship is worthless.

Jesus states that the uncleanness, which the Pharisees are so concerned about, is something which comes out of man and does not depend on how clean the utensils we use are or how far up our arms we wash our hands. These factors may cause us physical harm, However, Jesus is more concerned in this case with spiritual cleanliness. Jesus declares a list of sins which come from only paying lip service to the Word of God, these come from within.

One message here is that we are to practice what we preach. We are not to just declare our faith when we say the Creed on a Sunday, we are to live out that faith every day. How can we say we believe in God if we allow the destruction of His world? How can we profess we believe Jesus is the Son of God, if we do not love God and look after our neighbour? How can we say we believe in the Holy Spirit, if we do not accept that we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and are worthy of the gifts and charisms which he so abundantly provides? How can we say we believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, if we pick and choose the parts of the Church’s teachings we want to follow?

Jesus is talking to us loud and clear in the Gospel today and His message should hit home for us as much as it should have hit home to the Pharisees on that day long ago. God’s Word is not just to be spoken, it is alive, it needs to be alive in our heart, in our soul, in our minds, in our whole being. We are the Chosen People of the New Covenant, we have been called and need to respond wholeheartedly with ever fibre of our being.

We have a great opportunity to respond in many places in the world at the moment. We look at the news and see the desperation of the people trying to flee Afghanistan, we see the devastation in Haiti following yet another earthquake with tens of thousands of people left homeless. There are also millions of people on the brink of famine because the world has been focussing on the Covid crisis the need to provide food to areas affected by drought, war and natural disasters has been under funded. Cafod has launched emergency appeals1 to help in Haiti and Afghanistan, if you are able, please give generously. If you are not in a position to give then please pray that world leaders will lead in the fight to protect the lives of the innocent, that they will recognise the hungry, the displaced, the refugee and the homeless as our brothers and sisters.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 577-582: Christ and the Law
CCC 1961-1974: the Old Law and the Gospel

Please keep in your prayers

  • Fr Leo as he prepares to leave Holy Ghost parish and Fr John as he prepares to come to Holy Ghost parish.
  • The people of Afghanistan, Haiti and other crisis areas of the world, that they receive the help they need.
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • Those preparing to return to Mass.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.

1 Catholic international development charity | CAFOD