Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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The gift and wisdom of God's law
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily

Especially when I’m in a hurry to get somewhere,
   I’m no big fan of speed limits or stop lights.
But regardless of how quickly I need to get 
   from point A to point B,
I recognize that traffic signs and traffic laws are there
   to make the roads safe for everyone.
If I ignore the rules of the road
   I foolishly endanger myself and everyone around me.

Ultimately, that which constrains me also protects me
   and helps insure that I arrive at my destination safely,           
      even if my trip takes longer than I wanted.

It’s in just this sense that Moses urged the Israelites
   to be grateful for the word of God's law,
      for the statutes and decrees God gave them
         to insure that they arrive safely in the promised land,
            the destination to which they were traveling.

God’s word here, God’s law, is understood by the Israelites
   not as a burden but as a gift 
in which God shares with his people a wisdom
      designed to help lead them to where they want to be.

Jesus loved this law, entrusted to Israel.
He cherished the word of the law 
   designed to preserve and protect,
   to insure the life and freedom of those who lived by it.
He understood how God’s word is meant to set us free.

And so, as in the gospel today, he condemns those
   who distort the law and use it to wield power over others.
God’s law is not about mere externals but rather,
   is meant to change our hearts, from within,
to restrain us from anything that might endanger us 
   on the road, on our journey towards the promised land 
      of life with God, forever.

So, in the second reading St. James reminds us that
   God gives us birth, gives us life,  
      through the word, through the law
and that we delude ourselves if we only listen to 
   but fail to become doers of that word 
      designed to protect us from our own foolishness.
To do no more than hear God’s word
    is like reading but ignoring the traffic  signs posted for safety
        on the roads we travel.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only.
But what IS that word?
It’s very possible that the Lord’s word is a much stronger word
   that what we’ve come to think it to be.
It’s possible that in many way’s we’ve reduced God’s word
    to slogans from pop-psychology 
       and greeting card sentimentality.

• The word of God's law is so much more than,
   “Be nice to everybody!”
But we who gather in the shadow of the crucified Christ
   should understand the depth of love we owe one another 
      and especially those we’ve hurt or offended.

• The word of God's law is much more than,
   “Practice random acts of kindness.”
God’s word calls us far beyond random charity;
   it calls us to lay down our lives in serving our neighbor.

• The word of God's law is so much more than, 
      “Avoid conflict.”
God’s word calls us to be make peace: reconciling with one another,
   forgiving those who have hurt us,
      and reconciling with God when we’ve sinned.

• And the word of God's law is more than, “Play fair.”
     God’s word calls us to do what is just,  and to fight injustice
        especially when it shackles the poor and the marginalized. 

• The word of God's law is more than “Love life!”
      God’s word calls us to respect life, to reverence it, protect it,
         and defend life in all its shapes and forms,   
            wherever we find it.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only. 
We can be sure we’ve heard what is truly the word of the law of God
   when that word confronts us, challenges us,
      when it upsets life as we know it and demands more of us
         than we’re usually ready to willingly give.
Once we’ve heard the word of the law of God
   we need to bring it to bear on all aspects of our lives.
• What word of the Lord do I do in family life?
      in my marriage? in raising my children?
      in parish life? in pastoring my people?
      in the workplace?  at school?  in my relationships?
      in my conversations with others?

• What word of God's law do I do in my personal choices and decisions?
      in my conscience – and how I form my conscience?
      in my finances? in my charity? in how I share my gifts and talents?

• What word of God's law do I do in my free time?
      in my fantasy? in the entertainment I choose? on the internet?

• What word of the Lord do I do in my politics? 
   Come November, what word of the law of God will I do 
      in the voting booth?

• What word of the Lord do I do in my own prayer,
      as I stand before God who gives me his law,
         a gift of wisdom to guide me
            and protect me from my own sinful foolishness?

As I make my way home to God on the journey of my lifetime,
   am I ignoring stop signs and running the red lights
      -- or am I respecting the Lord’s rules of the road?

Here, every weekend, we gather to hear the word of the Lord.
Only having heard God’s word will we be able to do it in our lives.
But the Lord not only speaks his word in the scriptures,
   he does his word in offering us on this altar
      what he gave for us on the Cross.

We are nourished by the sacrament, the Body and Blood,
   of the One who loved us to his death,
      who laid down his life for us
         and who reconciles us to God and one another.

May we who hear the word of the Lord
   find that same Word made flesh, in Christ, in the Eucharist
      and be nourished as doers of the word we hear and receive.


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