Bread In The Wilderness

Fr. Carl Diederichs

Today we have readings that point us to what is and what is not faithfulness to God’s commands. The first reading is: Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-8, the second reading: James 1: 17-18, 21-22, 27, and the Gospel: Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

In the first reading, Moses is speaking to the people about how to live; they are to keep God’s commands, but not add to them. Unfortunately, over the centuries, the religious leaders did start adding to them and it took Jesus to sift through the reality of what God wants and what the leaders think God wants.

James is very clear about what he sees to be important for God. First of all, all we have is from God. “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” What a powerful incentive to be generous! It is God working through us. The word of God has been planted within us and that word in us has the power to save our souls. But, we must be “doers” of the word and not hearers only. That would be a deception for us to think that we do not need to act on the word, but hear it only.

And what are we asked to do? We are not asked to fast or pray, we are asked “ to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”   In today’s world we still have orphans and widows. At the time of James, orphans and widows were the most vulnerable for exploitation. They were without hope since they were no longer under the protection of the father/husband.

Today we would include along with orphans and widows many others of God’s children who are exploited, used and abused. Where should we start? I think we start with self-examination of how we think about poor and deprived people in general. We may not be Mother Theresa or Pope Francis, but we are blessed as much as they are with the presence of Jesus in us. We have the “Words” of everlasting life. So, why do we skirt around the issues of poverty and wealth, a living wage and poverty wages, racism and sexism, immigrants and the homeless and not feel the urge to do something? Or even blame the poor for their plight?

If we are not formed by the Word and let the Word enter us and change our hearts and minds, we can continue to worship God while at the same time dishonoring God by our actions and words. “For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.”

We pray for each other, for a melting of our hearts. We pray for a new openness to others who are suffering. We pray for each other to be “doers of the Word.”

God of all creation, we honor you with our lips and our actions, especially for the poor and powerless.