Central idea: The moral law tells us what is right, but evil desires arise from within us. Doctrine: The Law of Love perfects the Mosaic Law. Practical application: Soul searching.
Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)
To view Lectionary 125, click here.
Central idea: The moral law tells us what is right, but evil desires arise from within us
Reading 1 Dt 4:1-2, 6-8
Moses said to the people:
“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe,
that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin upon you,
you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.
Observe them carefully,
for thus will you give evidence
of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,
who will hear of all these statutes and say,
‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’
For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him?
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?”
- Moses tells the Chosen People that they have two great gifts that other nations do not have.
- One is that God is close to them so they can call upon him whenever they wish and he will listen to them.
- The other is that they have the Ten Commandments, God’s own revealed law.
- To be close to God and to observe the Divine Law is the basis of a happy life. This is why the Chosen People will be wise and intelligent if they live the covenant. The whole world will see how blessed they are if they do.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5
R. One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
by whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
shall never be disturbed.
- As Moses just said, observance of the Law brings life. This psalm is a sketch of the just man. If everyone lived the virtue of justice, the world would be a much different place.
- It is up to each one of us if we want to be just men and women who live according to the truth. We know, as Christians, that it is very difficult to live just lives our own because of concupiscence. But thankfully, because of Baptism and the rest of the Sacraments, we can have the grace to live blameless and positively good lives.
Reading 2 Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27
Dearest brothers and sisters:
All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you
and is able to save your souls.
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
- Both to will the good of the other (“all good giving”) and to act accordingly (“every perfect gift”) ultimately come from God.
- The birth St. Paul speaks of is baptism, making us the first examples of the kind of persons God wants to be in existence.
- The “word” is the Gospel message. It is heard and welcomed, planted in baptism, able to save us, but it must be lived by us.
- Our task is to avoid sin (“keep oneself unstained by the world”) and do positive good (“to care for orphans and widows in their affliction”).
Gospel Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
—For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
“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.”
He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.
“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”
- It was a good thing for the Jews of Jesus’ time to live according to the tradition of the elders. It contributed to their identity as the Chosen People set apart from everyone else on earth. It was supposed to help them become closer to God. These many external practices were supposed to help them change on the inside.
- The Pharisees’ and scribes’ complaint was not that some of Jesus’ disciples were literally dirty but that they did not perform a ritual washing that was supposed to protect them from being polluted by the world.
- But Jesus went to the very heart of the matter. Fundamentally, human beings don’t do evil because something in the world makes them bad. The evil begins inside each person. It arises from our disordered desires. When we consent to these impulses they defile us.
- What are we to do if evil arises from inside us? The answer is the New Law of the Gospel which reforms our hearts by the grace of the law of love.
Doctrine: The Law of Love perfects the Mosaic Law
- The Church sees the Old Testament Law as “holy, spiritual, and good, yet still imperfect.” The Old Law is like a tutor who can point out to his student what to do but who does not have the power to have him do it. The Mosaic Law teaches us what we should do, but it does not in itself give us the power to overcome our own tendency to sin. (CCC 1963)
- The New Law fulfills the Old Law.
- As the law of charity (CCC 1966), it is “the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed,” accomplished by Christ and the Holy Spirit (CCC 1965).
- It shows that the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament is the kingdom of God (CCC 1967).
- It extends the exterior law to the interior of the person and provides the means to reform the heart (CCC 1968).
- “The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who ‘does not know what his master is doing’ to that of a friend of Christ . . . or even to the status of son and heir.” (CCC 1972).
Practical application: Soul searching
- The law of charity rules and directs all other commands. The law of love is to will the good of the other. This includes willing our own good by not doing evil. The law of love wants to reform our heart or interior dispositions and gives us the grace or power to do so. On our part, it requires our cooperation and effort. This calls for some soul searching.
- What is the state of my interior dispositions, from which arise all my conduct?
- Do I simply so what I want? In other words, am I selfish?
- Am I a divided soul, partly doing God’s will, partly serving myself?
- Do I act out of fear: of God or of parents or of some other authority?
- Do I want what God wants? This is the making of a saint.
- Do I at least want to want what God wants? This is a good beginning.
- The law of love is a daily struggle or a multi-times-a-day struggle.
- Jesus Christ gives each of us an everyday hope. Our Lord will help you and me right now, despite our weakness, the weakness of not wanting to do what he wants.